The Underbelly of the Dutch Golden Age: War and the Waterwolf
Virtual
May 5, 2021, 4:30PM

The Underbelly of the Dutch Golden Age: War and the Waterwolf

Emmanuel Kreike, Professor of History

Celebrated as a century (1572-1672) of exceptional Dutch wealth, power, and culture with its shipping dominating the Seven Seas, the Golden Age paradoxically was also a period of devastating wars in and beyond its territories. The period’s undertone of war is dramatically bracketed by Pieter Bruegel’s 1563 painting Mad Meg (“Dulle Griet”) at the Museum Mayer Van den Bergh in Antwerp and Rembrandt’s 1642 The Night Watch (“Nachtwacht”) at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Mad Meg depicted the insanity and destruction caused by war and the Night Watch illustrated the extent to which Dutch society was still absorbed by war. Every Dutch town in the Golden Age had its citizen militia to defend it against enemies from abroad and within. Its greatest foreign enemy was the mighty Hapsburg dynasty that controlled Spain and Germany. Its most formidable internal enemies were the waterwolf that gobbled up precious agricultural lands and the dogs of war that burned and pillaged its countryside.

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