Quality of life: a poor and vulnerable people

Harry Lintsen, L.S. Laan, Onder Nomaler, Martijn Anthonissen, Ben P.A. Gales

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Well-being is achieved by means of four resources (that is, the four capitals: natural, economic, human and social) of which natural capital is the basis. The previous chapter emphasised the natural capital of the Netherlands and the way this was exploited with the aid of the other capitals. This chapter asks what the outcome of this exploitation was in terms of well-being. What were the most important issues around well-being in the Netherlands at the middle of the nineteenth century? In terms of present-day norms for extreme poverty, around 21% of the population at that time lived in extreme poverty. From a present-day perspective, extreme poverty is among the most important issues in well-being around 1850. A study of newspaper articles between 1830 and 1850 reveals that from a contemporary perspective too, extreme poverty was one of the most important societal issues of the time. The poor led not only a meagre, but also a vulnerable, existence. The latter also applied to a large part of the Dutch population. It had to cope with the elements in their extreme forms: heat waves, bitter cold, violent storms, heavy rains and hailstorms. A component of well-being specific to the Netherlands as a country located in the delta of multiple rivers was the struggle against water. This was waged along three main fronts: the management of inner (fresh) water, the struggle against the sea, and the interminable fight with the rivers. Finally, by present-day lights, in the past all the cities in the Netherlands were filthy and polluted with organic waste, including human and animal faeces. This was in large part responsible for low life-expectancy and poor public health. From a present-day perspective this touched on an important aspect of well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWell-Being, Sustainability and Social Development
Subtitle of host publicationThe Netherlands 1850-2050
EditorsHarry Lintsen, Frank Veraart, Jan-Pieter Smits, John Grin
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-76696-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-76695-9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018


  • Hygiene
  • Poverty
  • vulnerability
  • Water management


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