Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age

The Political Thought of Johan & Pieter de la Court


The Dutch seventeenth century, a ‘Golden Age’ ridden by intense ideological conflict, pioneered global trade, participatory politics and religious toleration. Its history is epitomized by the life and works of the brothers Johan (1622-1660) and Pieter de la Court (1618-1685), two successful textile entrepreneurs and radical republican theorists during the apex of Dutch primacy in world trade. This book explores the many facets of the brothers’ political thought, focusing on their ground-breaking argument that commerce forms the mainstay of republican politics. With a contextual analysis that highlights the interaction between thinking and acting, between intellectual and cultural history, the book reveals the international significance of this commercial republicanism and it proposes a novel, rhetorical approach to seventeenth-century Dutch political culture.
Open Access


Open Access

Biographical Note

Arthur Weststeijn, Ph.D. (2010) in History, European University Institute in Florence, is Director of Historical Studies at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome. His research focuses on the intellectual history of the early-modern Dutch Republic from an international perspective. This is his first book.

Review Quote

"This book fills a gaping hole in the historiography of seventeenth-century political thought." – Justus Nipperdey, in: European Review of History – Revue europeenne d'histoire 20/2 (2013), pp. 317-318 "Weststeijn’s timely study, [...] marks a major step forward in reassessing the de la Courts as important and influential thinkers in their own right. The book provides an extensive contextualization of their work against its political and intellectual background [...]." – Freya Sierhuis, in: Renaissance Quarterly 65/3 (Fall 2012), pp. 927-929

Table of contents

Acknowledgment Introduction 1. THE MAKING OF AN OEUVRE A Humanist Education The Dutch Debate The Making of an Oeuvre Conclusion: Politics as a Ballgame 2. THE RHETORIC OF THE MARKET Persuading the Passions In the Public Arena: Rhetoric in Action Fables and Frankness Conclusion: The Rhetoric of the Market 3. WISE MERCHANTS Hobbes and the Foundation of the Commonwealth Citizenship in Theory and Practice The Ethics of Self-Interest Representing the Wise Merchant Conclusion: Commercial Citizenship in Perspective 4. THE COMMERCIAL COMMONWEALTH The Batavian Athens The Politics of Free Trade Monarchy Dethroned Towards a Merchant Democracy Conclusion: The Radical Republic 5. CONCORD AND TOLERATION The Erasmian Moment The Relation between Church and State Toleration: Pluralism for the Sake of Unity Epilogue: From Freedom of Religion to Freedom of Speech? CONCLUSION The Brothers De la Court and the Commercial Republican Tradition Bibliography Index


All those interested in the history of early modern Europe, Dutch history, intellectual history and the history of political thought.