Michael Pye

When London and New York were Antwerp’s smaller brothers

© Al Richardson

Antwerp’s glory years

If you’re looking for a nice read, look no further. The newly published Antwerp: The Glory Years, by British author Michael Pye, is widely praised in Belgium, the UK and beyond. The book focuses on the 16th century, a time when Antwerp was one of the great historic cities and one of the earliest genuinely global cities too. “Commerce was its identity”, Pye writes, “the energy which held it together.” Antwerp grew to become a dazzling emporium famous across Europe, even before Paris, London and New York.

A unique city with a universal appeal

Just like today, Antwerp was a crossroads city in the 16th century: it was full of people passing through. More black people lived in 16th century Antwerp than in any European city other than Lisbon. The city on the Scheldt has always been a place of economic, cultural and strategic importance. All kinds of spices could be bought there, so too could books and art. It was the trade of the whole world. Pye writes beautifully, with an eye for detail. He was spotted many times writing and researching in Museum Plantin-Moretus, for instance. He succeeds in sketching the unique character of Antwerp as well as explaining its universal appeal.

Open for business

An entrepreneurial spirit, a culture of doing business, many foreign traders, open-mindedness, a forerunner, an intellectual climate… It’s not difficult to connect the dots between the Antwerp of Pye’s book and the city that Antwerp is today. The city’s historic urge to innovate has ensured that Antwerp has developed into a gateway to one of the world’s most prosperous regions and is now home to highly innovative businesses, more than 170 nationalities and a thriving cultural scene. Antwerp: The Glory Years is available worldwide. No doubt a lot of readers will be curious to (re)discover Antwerp.

Antwerp was and is open for business!

Curious what The Guardian has to say about this book?

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