Athena: Access Tool for Historical ecology and Environmental Archaeology

ATHENA envisions the creation of a historical database on flora and fauna species in cultural and natural contexts for the Netherlands. The ATHENA portal will hold information on historical contexts of human – nature relationships for a broad variety of plant and animal species and the landscapes and ecosystems they live(d) in. ATHENA does so by linking existing databases, but also by building and incorporating new ones. For more information see the website.

Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age

The Dutch Golden Age’s paintings, books, ceramics etc. still fascinate millions of people, but how did these creative outbursts emerge? In the ‘Golden Agents’ Research Infrastructure, so-called computer agents ingeniously connect existing and new databases to facilitate interdisciplinary research that unravels the inner dynamics of this creative miracle.

  • Participants: Prof. Oscar Gelderblom, Prof. Wijnand Mijnhardt, Prof. Maarten Prak, Prof. Els Stronks (Humanities), Dr Mehdi Dastani (Information and Computing Sciences) in collaboration with researchers from Huygens ING, University of Amsterdam, Free University Amsterdam, City Archives Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum and RKD
  • Duration: 2016-
  • Funding: NWO Investment Grant Large
The Dynamics of Inclusive Finance in the Netherlands, 1750-1970

Why is it so difficult to develop and sustain financial institutions that reach deep into society? This project analyses the changing finance options open to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the Netherlands 1750-1970 to understand what determines the form and reach of various financial institutions developed over time.

We construct a new dataset covering the period 1750-1920 to show finance options actually used by SMEs and regional variations in supply patterns over time. We investigate why various financial facilities offered by town councils during the early modern period disappeared. Private institutions designed to fill part of the gap succeeded only partially in doing so, but SMEs proved resilient in the face of the accelerating economic growth from about 1870. We analyse that resilience for both SMEs and for some of the fast-growing start-ups which appeared.

We also analyse the reasons why new finance initiatives, some of them government-backed, achieved more in some sectors than in others. Small farmers came to rely on rural credit cooperatives for this, but similar urban institutions faltered. Commercial banks appeared, but it took them several decades before, during the 1950s, they developed some interest in SMEs. We ask what kept banks from doing that earlier by comparing product innovation at the commercial banks with what the rural cooperatives and the government-backed bank for SMEs did.

The Historical dynamics of Industrialization in Northwestern Europe and China, 1800-2010

The Industrial Revolution may be a famous historical event, but how, where and why exactly did it emerge? Surprisingly little is known about how and why industrialisation moved across the globe.

In order to empirically test existing groups of theories, this project will collect data on 4 macro regions, which mirror the differences in timing of industrialisation:

  1. England (the first industrialiser)
  2. The Low Countries (an early follower)
  3. The Yangtze region in China (a late follower and the focus of the great Divergence debate)
  4. The Yungui region in China (abundant in raw materials, experienced an early industrialization, and was an important trading region. Yet, also belonging to the poorest regions in China at present)
  • Project Leader: Dr Bas van Leeuwen
  • Duration: 2015-2019
  • Funding: ERC Starting Grant
CLARIAH Structured Data Hub

As part of the large-scale CLARIAH project, the Structured Data Hub aims to connect and provide access to structured datasets containing socio-economic and demographic data. The project will also enable the visualisation and analysis of these data, in order to help find answers to important questions about inequality in the world and about historical demography.

CLARIAH (Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities) is a consortium of over 40 partners – including all Dutch humanities research institutes, university libraries, heritage institutions, public organisations and businesses – which develops tools for the humanities, in order to facilitate the use of the increasingly large amounts of available digital data.

  • Project leader: Prof. Jan Luiten van Zanden
  • Participant: Auke Rijpma
  • Partners: International Institute of Social History (and CLARIAH partners)
  • Duration: 2015-2019
  • Funding: NWO Roadmap Large-scale Research Facilities
The funding of business in the preindustrial world

This project builds an international network of scholars with either a theoretical interest in the historical development of different types of business organizations, or with first-hand empirical knowledge of the equity and debt contracts used in commercial, agricultural or manufacturing firms in preindustrial Europe and beyond. 

  • Project Leaders: Prof. Oscar Gelderblom, Prof. Francesca Trivellato (Yale)
  • Partners: California Institute of Technology, Yale University
  • Duration: August 2014 - August 2017
  • Funding: NWO, partners
The Quantitative History of China, ca. 960-1949

In recent years the Chinese economy has been experiencing rapid growth, but before the19th century China was also one of the world's leading economies. It is surprising, therefore, how little quantitative data on the Chinese economy are available in China itself and in the Western world.

The aim of this project is to make avaialbale quantitative data on China that is currently still inaccessible in archives and source publications. The cultural differences between China and the Western world mean that this will lead to the publication of books that not only contain the historic statistics, but also an explanation of the data and its limitations.

  • Project Leader: Dr Bas van Leeuwen
  • Participants: Dr Xuyi, Dr Peter Foldvari; authors collecting data: Prof. Shi Zhihong (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Prof. Ni Yuping (Qinghua University Beijing), Dr Liu Guanglin (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
  • Partners: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (China), Guangi Normal University (China), Social Sciences Press, Brill Publishers
  • Duration: 2014 - 2020
  • Funding: partners, Clio Infra
Coordinating for life. Success and failure of Western European societies in coping with rural hazards and disasters, 1300-1800

This project wants to better understand the factors that determine the extent to which a society is resilient to shocks and disasters.

All societies are regularly confronted with disasters such as earthquakes, erosion, floods, hunger or war. While some are able to prevent such disasters, respond adequately, and recover quickly, others remain vulnerable and badly affected. Why is that the case?

It has been demonstrated that wealth and technology alone are not sufficient factors which can prevent disasters. Factors relating to how society is organised also play a crucial role. This is the focus of research, in particular the strength of the society regarding the exchange, allocation and use of land, labour and capital. The researchers will study the various socio-economic factors in Western European societies from 1300 to 1800 in order to gain insight into the key determinants of the success or failure of society.

  • Project Leader: Prof. Bas van Bavel
  • Participants: Daniel Curtis, Dr Tim Soens, Dr Eline van Onacker, Bram van Besouw
  • Duration: 2014 - 2019
  • Funding: ERC Advanced Grant
Coping with hunger

Prior to 1800 north-western Europe experienced regular periods of food shortages. Yet from 1600 onwards some societies were able to prevent catastrophic famines. This research is aimed at identifying the factors responsible for this. Issues explored include the position in interregional trade networks, the regulation of internal markets and the organisation of poor relief.

  • Project Leader: Dr Jessica Dijkman
  • Duration: January 2014 - December 2016
  • Funding: NWO (Veni)
Nature or nurture? A search for the institutional and biological determinants of life expectancy in Europe during the early modern period

In the Nature or nurture? project we focus on the relation between socio-economic developments, household structures, life expectancy, life-events, socio-economic behavior, and care provisions for the elderly and whether the diversity in institutional solutions in early modern Northwestern-Europe could have increased the welfare of the elderly by analysing various historical sources and datasets.

  • Project Leader: Prof. Tine De Moor
  • Participants: Dr Anita Boele, Dr Corry Gellatly, Dr Charlotte Störmer
  • Partner: Newcastle Ageing Institute; Clio-Infra
  • Duration: September 2013 - August 2017
  • Funding: NWO (Vidi)
Unraveling the origins of a banking crisis: changing perceptions of risk and managerial beliefs in Dutch banking, 1957-2007

The real causes of the recent financial crisis are the result of a long process in which banks changed from risk avoidance to risk seeking. This was not a clear-cut process, but a complex interaction of institutions and beliefs that influenced the banking business in general and perceptions about how to manage banks and risk in particular.

After examining changes in banking strategies and performance, the project analyzes these belief systems in three steps: (i) the adoption of beliefs about “manageable” risk by top bankers and how this influenced bank strategies and institutions, (ii) the effect of these changing beliefs on the internal bank organizations, with an emphasis on the decentralization of decision-making and HRM policies; and (iii) the belief in mathematical models to manage risks and its effect on internal risk management practices. 

The project is based on a study of the Dutch banking sector since the late 1950s. It will track the actual changes based on longitudinal data and examine the main actors and institutions driving these changes, relying on archival research and interviews to uncover the underlying beliefs behind their actions.

Agency, Gender, and Economic Development in the World Economy 1850-2000

Does economic development contribute to and result in more ‘agency’, the power of individuals to decide for themselves? And is the reverse also true? Can we find a link between historical developments (e.g. the advent of literacy) and institutions (laws, family forms, political systems) which promoted agency and the actual economic developments in the various countries of the world?

Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen (1999) already argued that the ‘freedom’ to realise one’s potential is a major determinant and contributing factor of economic development. A crucial factor in this respect is ‘human capital formation’: education will increase the agency of people - enhance their possibilities to shape their own lives - and is at the same time an essential ingredient of economic development.

In this project we aim to study these interrelationships in depth, with a specific focus on gender. Given the crucial role of women in socialisation (producing human capital of the new generation), we will look closely at (institutions creating) gender differences in agency.

  • Project Leader: Prof. Jan Luiten van Zanden
  • Participants: Sarah Carmichael, Selin Dilli, Lotte van der Vleuten, Dr Auke Rijpma, Prof. Jan Kok (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • Partner: Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Duration: March 2011 - January 2016
  • Funding: NWO
The Polder Model: political culture in the water authorities, c.1400-c.1800

Just how much is true of the supposition that the Dutch Polder model has its origins in water management in the Middle Ages and early modern period? Did the need to work closely together to prevent flooding in the low-lying wet country lead to a culture of consensus, compromise, participation and consultation?

In the Poldermodel project the Dutch water boards are used as a micro laboratory to see if water management did indeed benefit from a greater engagement of the stakeholders.

  • Project Leader: Dr Milja van Tielhof (Huygens ING)
  • Participants: Dr Paul Brusse (UU/Huygens ING); Dr Piet van Cruyningen (Wageningen University/Huygens ING); Prof. Petra van Dam (VU University Amsterdam); Heleen Kole; Prof. Maarten Prak
  • Partners: Huygens ING, Utrecht University, VU University Amsterdam
  • Duration: 2011 - 2016
  • Funding: NWO
Clio Infra

In the Clio Infra project, various institutes and scientists are working together to answer questions surrounding global economic growth and inequality. To answer these questions they need information about causes and patterns of economic development, which is why the Clio Infra project is aimed at collecting and sharing data sets on the most important indicators of economic development. This data can be used to explain how and why global inequality came into existence and how it has developed.

  • Project Leader: Prof. Jan Luiten van Zanden
  • Participants: Dr Bas van Leeuwen, Dr Auke Rijpma, Pim de Zwart
  • Duration: 2011 - 2015
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
“United We Stand”. The Dynamics and Consequences of Institutions for Collective Action in Pre-Industrial Europe

The objective of this project is to unravel the complex relationships between economic development, the emergence and functioning of institutions for collective action, and changes in household formation in pre-modern Europe, by bringing these elements together in a single analytical framework, thus shedding new lights on the development of pre­modern European societies.

  • Project Leader: Prof. Tine De Moor
  • Current participants: Miguel Laborda Pemán, René van Weeren
  • Former participants: Annemarie Bouman, Richard Zijdeman, Jaco Zuijderduijn
  • Duration: January 2010 - December 2014
  • Funding: ERC Starting Grant
Business sector in the Netherlands in the twentieth century (BINT)

The BINT research programme comprises seven sub-projects and is aimed at charting the major developments in the Dutch business sector in the twentieth century in order to gain a greater insight into changes and continuity in the organisation of the business sector at the national level.

This research ties in with the discussions among sociologists and political economists on the ‘Varieties of Capitalism’.

  • Project Leaders: Prof. Keetie Sluyterman, Prof. Jan Luiten van Zanden, Dr Joost Dankers
  • Participants: Dr Bram Bouwens, Dr Gerarda Westerhuis
  • Partners: Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Technology Eindhoven, NEHA/IISG
  • Duration: 2002 - 2015
  • Funding: NWO, research time, the business sector, part of Jan Luiten van Zanden's Spinoz Prize