Research project

Historical Roots of the Dutch Sustainability Challenge

The Impact of the Utilization of Material Resources on the Modernization of Dutch Society, 1850-2010

This project examines more than two centuries of societal development using novel historical and statistical approaches, applying the well-being monitor developed by Statistics Netherlands in a historical analysis. Changes are being depicted in three dimensions of well-being: the quality of life ‘here and now’, ‘later’ and ‘elsewhere’.

It features The Netherlands as a case study, which is an especially interesting example; although it was one of the world’s richest countries around 1850, extreme poverty and inequality were significant problems of well-being at the time. The analysis of two centuries shows the solutions to the extreme poverty problem and the appearance of new sustainability problems, especially in domestic and foreign ecological systems.

The study also reveals the importance of natural capital and how their impact was on the quality of life. Further, it illuminates the role of natural capital by dividing it into three types of raw materials and concomitant material flows.
Additionally, the analysis of the institutional context identifies the key roles of social groups in well-being development.

Syntheses of the project are published in the books: De Kwetsbare Welvaart van Nederland 1850-2050 (in Dutch) and Well-being, Sustainability and Social Development.

Project Information

Project Partners

  • Netherlands Statistics (CBS)
  • Groningen University 
  • University of Amsterdam

Funding Program: NWO open call – humanities

Staff Involved at TU/e

  • Harry Lintsen (PL)
  • Frank Veraart
  • Jan-Pieter Smits
  • Fred Lambert
  • Giel van Hooff