This fascinating new interpretation of Dutch society in the Golden Age is a major contribution to early modern history. Dutch society in this period was to a significant extent different from that of the rest of Europe. A high proportion of the population lived in the numerous towns and market forces had penetrated the whole economy and transformed every level of society. The heart of this book is a discussion of the processes by which this unique society was produced and an analysis of its character. These social changes are set against the late sixteenth century background and in the context of international, political and economic circumstances of the seventeenth century. In the final chapters the effects of the strains of war and a stagnant and faltering economy on Dutch society are outlined.