Peter Frankopan at The Guardian:
Antwerp is the star of this charming and rather lovely history. The “trade of the whole world”, wrote the Venetian ambassador and cardinal Bernardo Navagero in the middle of the 16th century, could be found in this city. It was hardly an exaggeration: all kinds of spices could be bought there; so too could books and art, produced by the score for all tastes and inclinations; when William Cecil wanted “little pillars of marble” for Burghley House – along with a ready-made classical gallery – it was to Antwerp that he turned.
It was not just goods and products that could be acquired, for in Antwerp everything had a price, including knowledge, information and secrets – although distinguishing truth from scurrilous rumours was not easy, especially when it came to sex.