The Dutch Republic began its ascent to secular success in the midst of European religious and political conflict in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The northern provinces of the Netherlands began this progression with the signing of the Union of Utrecht in 1579, where they promised protect each other from the forces of Catholic king Phillip II of Spain. From then, the revolts in the Netherlands began to settle, and independence emerged in the Dutch Republic. The provinces opted to be civil but established political, religious, and economic independence from each other and the rest if Europe. This proved success until the decline of the Dutch Republic in the eighteenth century. The Dutch Republic's method of sustaining a nation through secularism and independence of provinces was successful, but these methods of success truly contributed to the country's decline; namely, the ultimate lack of nationalism kept the Dutch Republic from maintaining strength against the powers of monarchy and absolutism seen in England and France at the time.
In the seventeenth century, nations in Europe were run by a royal family determined the government and clerical status for its populates; the Dutch republic differed. The Dutch Republic was made up of seven provinces that were run independently of each other, and each with its own stadholder. Each executive of the provinces generally sided with the loose national stadholder, the head of the House of Orange. Until 1795, the independent provinces of the republic sustained their power and protected their citizens through self-sufficiently run court systems. The Dutch Reformed Church was Calvinist, but the provinces accepted the practice of all religions and allowed for the living of a secular lifestyle. Because of this, many surrounding minorities fled to the republics. The Dutch merchant class ran the regions, and in the period of the Golden Age, the Republic became the worldwide center of banking and shipping. Dutch gold became the international monetary exchange and the provinces created canals and windmill power to enhance their shipping. The fresh style of living that set the Dutch Republic apart from current countries of Europe in the seventeenth century brought enhancements to the success and power of the provinces.
Success emerged from the lifestyle differences presented by the Dutch republic in the Golden Age of the Netherlands. The independence of the stadholders of each provinces gave flexibility and apparent ease to the stability of the provinces. This mechanism was successful because in the time of military threats, the provinces could condense, but in time of relative peace the provinces could disperse back to their middle class leisures. In the period of the Dutch Republic's Golden Age (c. 1600-1650), religious unrest was occurring in other nearby countries of Europe (1559-1648). These conflicts between ruling Catholic and Protestant powers caused for the displacement and mistreatment of many minority religious groups; hence, the reason why the Dutch Republic had inflated immigration rates. The religious freedom of the Dutch Republic made it a popular place to move to, and its pleasant living styles were admired as well. The large, powerful class of merchant men exceeded the merchant classes in other areas of Europe, and the success of Dutch trade came to dominate Europe in the early seventeenth century. Amsterdam likewise became the worldwide center of trade and banking. The Dutch Republic went on to dominate the oceans with their approximate 10,000 ships and were successful in utilizing Africa for its slaves and land; however, the pleasant living in the Dutch Republic was too inviting for populates to emigrate and establish a colonial empire. The success of the secular and loosely tied provinces of the Netherlands lasted strongly for half of a century.
In 1651, the Dutch Republic faced its first wind of suppression from competing English forces. Growing mercantilism damaged the Dutch commerce and during the Cromwell era, the Navigation Acts of England were passed so that each import into Europe had to come through English Vessels. Dutch shipping declined because of this, and the Dutch went to war in the Anglo-Dutch wars against England because of this as well. The intensity of power from Louis XIV's absolutism also drained the Dutch Republic in this time period. Furthermore, the Dutch Republic preserved its existence in alliance with England until the eighteenth century, but the Republic declined against the matchless growing power of England. The strength of the nation was short-lived because of its disperse of powers into smaller fragmented provinces. France had the reigning of absolutism with Louis the XIV that set up a cushion for damage and rebound, such as with the revoking of the Edict of Nantes. England tried running as a republic with Cromwell; however, that was short lived by the nation and called for such restoration of monarchy in England that the period after Cromwell's death was also called the Restoration. With the severity of religious and political conflict in seventeenth century Europe, a nation lacking an interconnected, central power of politics and religion will not be able to hold up against other solid world powers for extended amounts of time.
The Golden Age of the Netherlands was marked by pleasant standards of living and freedom of provincial independence, but the era only lasted for 50 years; whereas, the reign of absolute monarchies lasted for centuries in European history. The Dutch Republic was powerful for its time because it was new and secular; it served as a refugee for those minorities singled out by the European religious wars. It was in the right situation at the appropriate period of time, but as religious conflicts settled in Europe and rising powers of France and England enhanced their dominance, the independence of the Dutch provinces was no longer beneficial. With the Republic's success, there came a decline, and that decline overshadows the accomplishments of the Golden Age. In the end, the Dutch accomplishments did not prove to be helpful in conserving the cohesiveness of a republic. The Dutch Republic gained independence in the Union of Utrecht, but the dispersal of its freedoms and choices spread far enough away from the core of the nation so that defense against absolute powers would be affectively retained.