Holland in the Age of Rembrandt

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Module code


  • Level 3
  • Semester 2
  • 24 places
  • History - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • A European Studies pathway module choice.


This module serves as an introduction to seventeenth-century Dutch history. Although political history will be our main focus, we will discuss a wide range of other topics as well, including social stratification, women's history, religious strife and toleration, intellectual life, and of course, Dutch art and culture. The purpose is to make you familiar with the methodological and interpretative issues raised by different kinds of sources and approaches.

We will discuss a wide variety of primary materials, all in English translation, ranging from personal letters of Matthew Slade to scurrilous pamphlets like The Dutch-means Pedigree, from the inventory of Rembrandt's house to Spinoza's principled plea for toleration!

Some of the topics which are discussed in this module:

  • The Protestant Reformation in the Low Countries
  • Revolt and Revolution in the Habsburg Netherlands 1566-1581
  • Dutch Primacy in World Trade
  • Religious and Political Crisis in the Dutch Republic 1609-1621
  • The Birth of Bourgeois Society?
  • Women and Children in Seventeenth Century Holland
  • Tolerance and True Freedom in the Dutch Republic
  • The Dutch Art Market in the Age of Rembrandt

This module includes Fieldwork or archive visits.

Please note this module includes Fieldwork or archive visits.


Dr Martine Van-Ittersum


This module is assessed as follows:

  • Primary Source Review (30%)
  • In-class Presentation including Q&A (15%)
  • In-class response of 10-15 minutes (10%)
  • Module Journal (45%)


Introductory Reading

  • J. L. Price., The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century. (London: Macmillan, 1998)
  • J. L. Price., Dutch Society, 1588-1713. (London: Longmann, 2000)
  • Simon Schama., The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. (New York City: Knopf, 1887)

Access the online reading list system

Field trips

Students on this module often visit galleries to learn to decode works of art, as primary sources.