M. 't Hart
- Autonomia e importanza delle città nel processo di formazione dello Stato dei Paesi Bassi: l’esempio di Anversa e Amsterdam
- Dimensioni e Problemi della Ricerca Storica
- Volume | Issue number
- 2009 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
This article discusses the development of urban autonomy and the consequences for the process of state-formation in the Low Countries, which was characterized by a paradox between the logic of capital accumulation as opposed to that of state power. The Low Countries were to a certain degree the successor of the Italian city-states in the rising capitalist system, at the same time its cities played an important role on the process of state formation. After a short survey of the historiography on urban autonomy and state formation in the Low Countries we look in particular on Antwerp and Amsterdam, which were prominent commercial centres in the early modern period. The basis of the political autonomy was a strong economic position, which relied partly on its potential to contribute with indirect taxes on consumption and on its incomes from commerce. Rich merchants were attracted to these centres, which contributed to capital accumulation. At the same time they were major financeers of the state. The city also was able to grant loans to the prince from its fiscal incomes. This led to a close relationship between the city and the state, which was at the same time characterized by a certain animosity. Especially in the seventeenth century, Amsterdam had a politically strong position thanks to the constitution of the United Provinces in which the cities played a leading role. Both Antwerp and Amsterdam used legal arguments and their economic weight in its negotiations with the central government; however, the focus was more on the former in Antwerp and rather on the latter in Amsterdam. While Amsterdam could rely on its economic potential and its political power in the Estates of Holland, Antwerp, whose economic position was in decline, had to insist on its privileges, which were granted in the late middle ages and in the sixteenth century. The French Revolution led to a strong decline of the importance of urban autonomy in the process of state formation. However, by the nineteenth century the central state had itself taken up a central role in the process of capital accumulation, which ended the paradoxal relationship between the city and the state.
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