The point of departure around 1850: the turn of the tide

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Fundamental changes in politics, economy, technology and 'civil society' took place in the Netherlands in the second half of the nineteenth century. The eminent politician Thorbecke guided the nation through the constitutional reforms around 1850. A new constitution put an end to the power of the king and shifted political power to parliament. The Dutch economy modernised thanks to the liberalisation of trade, an entrepreneurial spirit and other new economic conditions. It was moreover embedded in a new culture that regarded technological innovations almost by definition as social progress. A dynamic 'civil society' was populated by emergent professionals, including engineers and hygienists. In this chapter, with the help of the well-being monitor, we explore the changes in quality of life 'here and now,' 'later,' and 'elsewhere' for the period 1850-1910. Extreme poverty began to decline significantly, while the burden on natural capital and the natural environment increased. The question is whether this increased burden was problematic and whether it was in fact problematized. We subsequently focus on natural capital, that in this study is seen as the basis of well-being. We make an inventory of some of the important shifts in the production of raw materials and the derivative material flows in the period between 1850 and 1910. This overview isolates the main themes that are worked out in greater detail in the following chapters.

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 pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-76696-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-76695-9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018


  • Constitution
  • Engineers
  • Hygienists
  • Liberalisation
  • Monitor
  • Natural capital
  • Well-being


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