Private energy consumption before and during the early industrial revolution: Belgium and The Netherlands in comparative perspective (1600-1850)

Date: 19 October 2016

Introduction: New PhD-project of CSG-member Wout Saelens

Why did the Northern Low Countries ('the Netherlands') experience early modern economic growth, but no industrialization until the late nineteenth century? And why, by contrast, did the Southern Low Countries ('Belgium') turn into the first industrialized region outside of Britain after experiencing centuries of relative economic stagnation and decline?

This research project aims to evaluate the role of the transition from an ‘organic’ to a ‘mineral’ energy base in the domestic sphere as a potential explanatory factor in these divergent paths of development. By studying the energy sources, technologies, practices, and mentalities related to the heating and illumination of early modern homes over time and in a comparative perspective, this project aims to shed light on the energy-intensity and -efficiency of households in Belgium and the Netherlands prior to industrialization.