Quilette: How the Dutch Created Europe’s First Free-Speech Zone More than 400 years Ago


On a Continent embroiled in religious turmoil and persecution, tolerance and free speech found few patches of fertile soil in Western Europe at the dawn of the 17th century. The first such patch was the flat and windswept Low Countries on the North Sea coast. During the so-called Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, the Dutch Republic developed a cosmopolitan culture with a comparatively high degree of tolerance and free speech, which contributed to making the Dutch Republic an early modern epicenter of art, learning, publishing, philosophy, and science.

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