Reconstruction National Accounts of Holland, 1500-1800

Researchers involved: Jan Luiten van Zanden and Bas van Leeuwen


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 has been 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 served as a basis for estimating developments in the level and structure of national income.


Results for the whole economy of Holland:


A) Datafiles

B) Publications

  • The results for the period 1510/14 have been published in: Jan Luiten van Zanden, 'Taking the measure of the early modern economy: historical national accounts for Holland in 1510/14', European Review of Economic History, Vol. 6 2002, pp. 131-163. 
  • The end results of the project have been published in: Jan Luiten van Zanden and Bas van Leeuwen, 'Persistent but not Consistent: The Growth of National Income in Holland 1347-1807', Explorations in economic history, Vol. 49 (2) 2012, pp. 119-130.  

Results for specific sectors of the economy of Holland:

A) Datafiles

The total-estimates-trade-Holland-file is based on the following sub files:

B) Sub Projects
  • The production of the sea fisheries (herring and whales) by Christiaan van Bochove. The datafile and references to specific publications can be found on the webpage of the project.
C) Publications

Results of related projects:

The Reconstruction National Accounts of Holland, 1500-1800 project is an extension of the National Account of the Netherlands project, which focussed on the 1800-1914 period and resulted in the publication of the following books:

  • 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).

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.