On 9 January 1632, Caspar Barlaeus delivered his famous inaugural lecture 'Mercator Sapiens' – the wise, erudite merchant – on the occasion of the opening of the Atheneum Illustre, the precursor of the University of Amsterdam today.
Barlaeus described the citizen-merchant-manager who made Amsterdam the centre of the world during the Golden Age, and who also possessed the traits of the Renaissance Man by being a scholar, philosopher and artist.
In the presence of 300 merchants, Barlaeus spoke about the value of practical knowledge on topics such as other countries, geography, products, people, culture and languages, while also referring to ethical and moral values such as honesty, discretion, frugality, composure and generosity as worthy of consideration.
To this day, his speech continues to be a source of inspiration for thinkers in economics and business.
The special centennial book The book of a Century reflects on how the wise merchant would respond to the challenges we face today and provides a portrait of the ideals and motivations of the current generation of students at UvA Economics and Business.