The Full Life
Nederlandse literatuur en cultuur ten tijde van de Republiek (circa 1550-1800)
Dutch literature and culture in the time of the Republic (circa 1550-1800)
The story of 17th-century Holland was fascinating even to contemporaries, and Europe looked on with admiration, envy, and sometimes downright astonishment. The ‘Golden Century’ later proved such a rich field of study that many historians have been able to surprise their readers with fresh interpretations. Now historian René van Stipriaan brings Holland’s golden era excitingly to life through the literature of the period.
Van Stipriaan draws on a wealth of material to illustrate literature’s decisive role in the spectacular developments that rapidly turned a province in revolt against its Spanish masters into a world power, economically and politically, transforming a land of peasant farmers into an affluent trading nation with a sophisticated culture. Literature was not a tranquil realm of fine writing, in fact the power of the printed word was a crucial aspect of the social upheaval of the time.
Literature was central to ‘the full life’ and a party to all social, cultural and scientific controversies, reporting Holland’s greatest undertakings. Sometimes words themselves became weapons: poets were the intellectual force behind the battle songs people sang all over the country during the struggle for independence from Spain, an early example of successful literary propaganda. Writers sailed with the ships of the East India Company and the travel journals the trade ships brought back were among their most popular wares. When increasing wealth produced a new youth culture, poets and their ‘kiss poems’ took a leading role.
Van Stipriaan has collected hundreds of instances like these to create a fresh portrait of the times, engagingly written, vividly depicting the important events of the period. As well as covering more than two and a half centuries of literary life, The Full Life describes the publishing trade that flourished for so long in The Netherlands in a period of unprecedented civic and press freedom. In such a multiplicity of stories every reader will encounter something new.