In the mid 1600s The Dutch Republic became the leading nation in trade, science and art. However, much of its success was the result of wealthy and smart immigrants that had fled persecution elsewhere. Especially the revocation of the Edict of Nantes –partially in 1629 and completely in 1685– caused over 50.000 Huguenots to flee to the Netherlands. In other words the Netherlands had become a free haven for the free minded.
With the founding of the East and West India Companies (VOC and WIC) fortunes were made on the spice and slave trade. The Dutch were good tradesmen but also had a lot of luck. Their big neighbors England and France were too caught up in internal affairs to pay due attention to that small Republic that silently took over their trading posts in the East.