The Ambassdaor of the Dutch Republic Cornelis van der Mijle and the Doge of Venice, 1609. Zeeuws Archief Middelburg, Photo: Landesmuseum
The exhibition in the Landesmuseum tells the story of the origins of our contemporary economic system, capitalism, in the historic maritime republic of Venice and during the “Golden Age” of Amsterdam – Venice from the 13th century and Amsterdam in the 17th century. Both cities played a key role in the economic and social development of the West. Merchants and traders invented new forms of finance, credit and commerce which we still use today. Both cities looked out towards the sea, took risks, built ships, pursued trade overseas, suffered losses, but also made large profits. With growing affluence and the birth of a pre-modern civil society, for example in Amsterdam, culture and splendour became more attractive than risky overseas trade. This marked the start of investment in culture and luxury – and also the end of the “Golden Age” of both cities. Though capitalism is as old as mankind, modern capitalism has its roots in late medieval and early modern history.