The main focus of this NWO-project is on the modernisation process and the social changes that took place in the Dutch countryside during the nineteenth century under the influence of processes of state-formation and nation building and processes of commercialisation and professionalisation.

During the nineteenth century the Dutch farmers strengthened their hold on the countryside while the large landowners and elite started to lose their positions. How was this process of democratisation possible and what were its implications? What caused the farmers associations (boerenbonden) to compete with the older agricultural societies (maatschappijen van landbouw) at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century? Within those agricultural societies, why did the power of the smaller farmers increase rapidly? The countryside became more and more identified by agriculture and the interests of the farmers – a situation that would be taken for granted during much of the twentieth century and became seen as the natural state of affairs instead of a historical one.