Over the course of centuries, the ‘Dutch’ have shaped their society in interaction with local, geographic circumstances and ‘international’ influences. The roots of those dynamics can be found in the period before national states and identities even existed, which explains the rationale to put ‘Dutch’ and ‘international’ between quotation marks here.
For centuries , especially during the medieval and early modern period, networks were focused more on a flexible interaction with people living nearby or further away than on the formation of a geographically rooted society. Even the nation-state of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries had more porous borders than is often assumed. As a result, numerous characteristics of ‘our’ society are comparable to those found elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Netherlands differ from other countries in the specific combination of those characteristics.
The History Department of Huygens ING investigates the origins and backgrounds of what the ‘Dutch’ perceive to be the typical combination of characteristics that constitute their shared identity. It distinguishes three specific fields of interaction:
- Transfer of entities (people, goods, and ideas) across ‘national borders’: migration, trade, and cultural exchange.
- Networks that facilitate the spread of such transfers within society, furthered by mediators and institutions.
- The emergence of institutions that support such transfers and exchanges, and at the same time tend to perpetuate the development of society in a particular direction (‘path-dependency’).
How did the ‘Dutch’ give shape to the characteristic elements of their society in interaction with local forces and foreign influences, aided by transfers, networks, and the building of institutions?