Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Reconstruction National Accounts of Holland, 1500-1800

The aim of this project is to analyse the economic development of Holland in the early modern period on the basis of a reconstruction of its national accounts. It will be one of the first times the system of national accounts is applied to the study of a pre-industrial economy. The project is confined to the province of Holland, which was demographically and economically the most important part of the Northern Netherlands during this period.
Our main method is to gather specific information on annual output and added value in each of the most important economic branches, following the System of National Accounts (SNA) used in contemporary economic-statistical research. The starting point is the production approach; the branches that are being reconstructed include agriculture, herring fisheries, peat extraction, production of textiles, sugar and paper, to name but a few. Weights will be derived from a reconstruction of the structure of the labour force in three moments in time: 1510/14, 1670/80 and around 1800. Combined, the chronological series and the data on the structure of the labour force will serve as a basis for estimating developments in the level and structure of national income.

The project is presented in more detail in 'Economische groei in Holland tussen 1500 en 1800' (pdf-file, 59 Kb), NEHA-bulletin 15-2 (2001) 65-76. The results for the period 1510/14 have been published in 'Taking the measure of the early modern economy: historical national accounts for Holland in 1510/14', European Review of Economic History, 6 (2002) 131-163. The project is also an extension of previous work on historical national accounts for the Netherlands, focusing on the 1800-1914 period (see
The books resulting from this project can be purchased online from our publisher, Aksant:
• R.M. Albers, Machinery investment and economic growth. The dynamics of Dutch development 1800-1913 (Amsterdam 2002)
• Michael Jansen, De industriële ontwikkeling in Nederland 1800-1850 (Amsterdam 2000)
• Edwin Horlings, The economic development of the Dutch service sector 1800-1850. Trade and transport in a premodern economy (Amsterdam 1995)
• R.H. van der Voort, Overheidsbeleid en overheidsfinanciën in Nederland 1850-1913 (Amsterdam 1994)
• Merijn Knibbe, Agriculture in the Netherlands 1851-1950. Production and Institutional Change (Amsterdam 1993)

Partial results bearing on specific branches are published on this website in the form of working papers. A presentation of the main results toke place at the IEHA World Economic Congress in August 2009.
The project is carried out by Jan Luiten van Zanden (IISH/University of Utrecht) and Bas van Leeuwen (University of Warwick).

Results of sub projects now available

- Roots of Growth and Productivity Change in Dutch Shipping Industry, 1500-1800, by Milja van Tielhof and Jan Luiten van Zanden
- Number of notaries registered in Holland by F. Snapper
- Number of book publishers active in Holland by F. Snapper
- The production of the sea fisheries (herring and whales) by Christiaan van Bochove

Related links

- Historical Prices and Wages, which presents amongst others estimates of the development of wages and prices in Holland between 1450 and 1800
- Enqueste en Informacie, which offers sources that have been used to make a benchmark estimate of Holland's economy around the year 1500.


Christiaan van Bochove and Jan Luiten van Zanden, 'Two engines of early modern economic growth? Herring fisheries and whaling during the Dutch Golden Age (1600-1800)' in: Simonetta Cavaciocchi ed., Ricchezza del mare, ricchezza dal mare. Secoli XIII-XVIII (in: Atti delle "Settimane di Studi" e altri Convegni 37) (Prato, 2006), 557-574.


Jan Luiten van Zanden -