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Chapter Summary

Historians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have for decades been expending enormous energy on the study of early modern methods of communication. The liveliness and intensity of public debate in the Netherlands was enabled by the geography of these lands that made communication easy, by high literacy rates, by the degree of urbanization and by commerce and their position as ‘bookshop of the world’. This chapter shows that even those who most deplored divisions and debate, and who sought to silence dissenting voices, from the late sixteenth century onwards found themselves virtually forced to make their case in what had become a highly public arena of opinion and debate, that exercised a profound influence on the culture and self-image of the Netherlands.

Keywords: commerce; literacy rates; Netherlands; urbanization



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