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Comparing the financial markets of the Dutch Golden Age to the current financial sector

Alumni News

On 19th of February, former fellow Oscar Gelderblom (Economic History, Utrecht University) gave his inaugural lecture entitled What do we actually need the Financial Sector for?

Fresh look at the financial sector

The new Professor delivered his lecture to a packed audience in the Aula at Utrecht University. Professors, colleagues, students, former teachers, family and friends gathered to listen while Oscar compared the Financial markets of the Dutch Golden Age to the current financial sector. He explained the similarities and differences in plain and engaging terms and showed that although it is tempting to draw parallels between the two periods that there are also huge differences.

In the 16C, the high-risk transactions of the Golden Age were carried out by a small wealthy elite who carried all the risks themselves. In contrast, the majority of ordinary townsfolk organised their financial needs via friends, guilds and the exchange bank in the old town hall of Amsterdam. Nowadays, it is completely normal that everyone has a bank account and citizens have become completely dependent on the banks for their financial transactions. As our modern banks diversified to carry out an increasingly confusing mix of transactions, they began speculating with their customers’ money but without any sense of personal risk. Gelderblom argued that it is time to take a fresh look at how the financial sector is set up and perhaps look at ways of involving a more regulated publically owned form of financial services.

See Lecture text (in Dutch)


About Oscar Gelderblom

Oscar Gelderblom was a fellow at NIAS in 2012/13 working with Joost Jonker in the Theme group “The Evolution of Financial Markets in Pre-Industrial Europe: The Case of the Low Countries, 1500-1800”. During their fellowship, they worked on producing an English version of the educational game entitled Het Spel van De Gouden Eeuw. Recently, Gelderblom was awarded a VICI grant.


By Petry Kievit (19/02/2015)