Plain Lives in a Golden Age

Deursen, A. Th. van
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Full title

Plain Lives in a Golden Age: Popular Culture, Religion and Society in Seventeenth-Century Holland


Van Deursen, a professor of history at the Free University of Amsterdam, shows us how the common people of the Netherlands lived between 1572 and 1648, a period that includes Holland's Golden Age. He explores what these folk did to earn a living, how they spent their leisure time, their relationships to their government, to their God and to their churches. Van Deursen discusses the prevailing concepts of political liberty and exposes a certain mythic aspect of the much-vaunted Dutch religious freedom. He reveals persecution of Catholics and the fact that choice of the "wrong" denomination could affect both one's social standing and career advancement. The author also successfully undertakes the difficult task of reconstructing the role of women in the society. The exhaustive footnotes and often minute statistical detail render this a book better suited to the student than to the recreational reader. Still, meticulously researched and well written, unpacking the making of the Dutch character and psyche, the book is a worthy companion piece to Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches . Illustrations not seen by PW. -- Publishers Weekly