This exhibit traces the early modern period of Europe through the regional lens of the Low Countries, a region which constitutes the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. This period spans from the 1430s to the 1790s, but the exhibit mainly focuses on the developments of the 16th and 17th centuries in the northern region of the Netherlands controlled by the Dutch Republic. The Low Countries served as an important setting for changes in politics, religious expression, economics, arts, society, and technology throughout the early modern period. The artistic and intellectual changes of the Renaissance swept through the Low Countries. Themes of religious reform, conflict, and tolerance span the entire period. Dutch trade, finance, and industry grew, and during a time of increasing global ambitions and interactions, the Dutch Republic conducted imperialist endeavors abroad. The urban middle class and institutional power of city councils expanded alongside trends of increasing urbanization, with cultural and social implications. Individuals in the Low Countries also innovated in science and philosophy, participating in the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. Alongside these developments, some continuities run through the entire period, and can be seen in the exhibit. The connections between the Low Countries and the major political forces of the period, especially England and Spain, remain at the forefront of the exhibit. Many aspects of Dutch culture had a religious basis, which underpinned art, philosophy, and politics during this period. The major developments of the early modern period occur primarily in urban and coastal regions, such as the cities of Amsterdam and Bruges, lending to a demographic continuity as seen in the exhibit.


Adam Smart