The Low Countries - an area roughly embracing the present-day Netherlands and Belgium - formed a patchwork of varied ecomic and social development in the Middle Ages, with some regions displaying a remarkable dynamism. Mars and Markets charts the history of these vibrant ecomies and societies, and contrasts them with alternative paths of development, from the early medieval period to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Providing a concise overview of social and ecomic changes over more than a thousand years, Bas van Bavel assesses the impact of the social and institutional organization that saw the Low Countries become the most urbanized and densely populated part of Europe by the end of the Middle Ages. By delving into the early and high medieval history of society, van Bavel uncovers the foundations of the flourishing of the medieval Flemish towns and the forces that propelled Holland towards its Golden Age. Exploring the Low Countries at a regional level, van Bavel highlights the importance of localized structures for determining the nature of social transitions and ecomic growth. He assesses the role of marial organization, the emergence of markets, the rise of towns, the quest for self-determination by ordinary people, and the sharp regional differences in development that can be observed in the very long run. In doing so, the book offers a significant contribution to the debate about the causes of ecomic and social change, both past and present.
Bas van Bavel is distinguished professor of Transitions of Economy and Society at Utrecht University. He acts as the academic director of the Utrecht University interdisciplinary priority area - Institutions for Open Societies - and he is a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.