Jan de Vries (1943), USA

Jan de Vries was awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for History 2000 for his pioneering research into the development of the European economy between 1500 and 1800.

Jan de VriesHe conducted pioneering research into the early modern history of the European economy, specifically in the Dutch Republic (the Northern Netherlands). Professor De Vries has used economic theories and concepts to organise a huge quantity of wide-ranging historical data in a most original and transparent manner, allowing him to reveal astonishing viewpoints and patterns. He has succeeded in tracing the origins of the modern market economy and has shown the transition from the early modern economy to industrial society. He has gone further than any other historian thus far in analysing the role that urbanisation played during this period. Professor De Vries's studies have focused mainly on the way in which different economic parties (households, farmers, artists, municipal authorities or groups of labourers) responded to market trade and, in turn, contributed to its development and expansion. He has succeeded in showing the links between macro-economic developments and history at local level, so that his work often has a very practical grounding. For example, he has analysed the role of the barge in the modernisation of Holland, and showed how the flourishing art market depended on economic variables. His work not only makes a highly significant contribution to the study of economic and demographic history, but also provides signposts for art historical research.

Further reading

The Dutch Rural Economy in the Golden Age, 1500-1700. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1974;
The Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 1600-1750. Cambridge University Press, 1976;
Barges and Capitalism: Passenger Transportation in the Dutch Economy, 1632-1839. Wageningen: AAG-Bijdragen, 1978; 2e uitg. Utrecht: Hes Publishers, 1981;
European Urbanization, 1500-1800. Cambridge Mass., Harvard University Press, 1984;
Jan de Vries en Ad van der Woude, Nederland 1500-1815: De eerste ronde van moderne economische groei. Amsterdam, Balans, 1995;
David Freedberg en Jan de Vries (ed.), Art in History, History in Art: Studies in Seventeenth-century Dutch Culture. Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1991.


Jan de Vries was born in the Netherlands in 1943. He moved to the United States as a boy and is an American citizen. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1970 (Yale University). Since 1977 he has been Professor of History and, since 1982, Professor of History and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. Professor de Vries and Ad van der Woude co-authored the standard work The First Modern Economy. Success, Failure and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy from 1500 to 1815, which was awarded the Gyorgy Ranki Prize for 'the best book on the economic history of Europe'. Professor De Vries was made a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1989. He is also a member of the British Academy, the Society for Dutch Literature (Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde), and various international scholarly organisations. From 1991 to 1993 he held the post of president of the Economic History Association, and he is an editor of the Journal of Economic History.