This review of Waterstaat in stedenland. Het hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland voor 1857 (Utrecht, 2006) by Milja van Tielhof and Petra van Dam, raises the question: ‘To what extent does this study of the Netherland’s most important polder area confirm two important theses in Dutch history?’. It concludes that the book confirms the idea of Holland as an early commercial society. On the other hand, it finds little evidence in the book to support the idea that Holland was an early democratic society in which farmers were regularly consulted about important decisions that directly affected their own lives. The Rijnland Water Board was, in fact, completely dominated by noble families and members of the urban elite who together managed to overcome the challenges of collective action in a very large area.
This review is part of the discussion forum 'Waterstaat in stedenland' (Milja van Tielhof and Petra J. E. M. van Dam).
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