Well-being and sustainability around 1850: the frame of reference

Harry Lintsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

128 Downloads (Pure)


The previous chapter reported a dearth of innovation regarding the exploitation of natural capital around 1850. This chapter deals with the dynamics of the institutional quadrants at the time (see Chap. 1). In a number of respects the 1840s marked the start of a new phase. 'Civil society' awoke, mainly thanks to the contribution of younger generations of Netherlanders. Due to the abdication of King William I, the political institutions required a makeover. Economic institutions were under a great deal of pressure due to the emerging liberal climate and the liberalisation of the world market. In the domain of technology, new institutions blossomed with the emergence of civil and mechanical engineers and other professional groups. These developments had not yet led to fundamental social change. The Netherlands remained a mercantile capitalist, colonial and agricultural nation. This is the context in which the well-being monitor for 1850 must be placed. This monitor is the 'benchmark' for this study, the standard against which the monitors for 1910, 1970 and 2010 are evaluated. On the basis of the monitor and from both a contemporary and a present-day perspective, three important sustainability problems can be discerned: material welfare (poverty), the institutional environment (political instability) and social capital (little trust in political institutions). In addition, from a present-day perspective a series of issues is problematic: poor public health, nutrition and lower-class housing (the personal characteristics), insufficient innovations (economic capital), a lack of qualified labour (human capital) and the immoral "culture system" in the Dutch East Indies (trans border effects). The state of water management also gave cause for concern. Both from contemporary and present-day perspectives the Dutch delta was vulnerable.

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


  • Civil society
  • Economy
  • Engineers
  • Monitor
  • Politics
  • State
  • Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Well-being and sustainability around 1850: the frame of reference'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this