Migrants and the Court of Amsterdam, 1600-1800

07 November 2023 - 13:43

This project will look anew at this assumption of tolerant co-existence between migrants and locals, by studying the institutional treatment of migrants as well as their interpersonal interactions with their neighbours, as documented in the archives of the urban judicial system. By looking at how heavily place of origin affected the treatment of migrants in the Dutch Republic, we can add a more nuanced layer of analysis to the characterization of the early modern Dutch Republic as ‘tolerant’, beyond an analysis of confessional co-existence, or of long-term social mobility trends

Since April 2020 Samantha Sint Nicolaas has been working on her PhD project ‘Migrants and the Court of Amsterdam, 1600-1800’. This PhD project explores the judicial position of migrants in early modern Amsterdam through the interrogation records of the criminal justice court.

The early modern Dutch Republic has often been lauded for its ‘tolerance’, referring usually to the ‘open’ policies towards migrants, as well as the harmonious (interreligious) co-existence between migrants and their neighbours. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, some 600,000 foreigners settled in the Dutch republic, the majority relocating to the urban cities of the province of Holland. Beyond attracting migrants from other countries, the urbanized cities of Holland also attracted migrants from other towns and provinces of the Dutch Republic. The idealized picture of tolerance and harmonious co-existence is drawn into question when we consider the implications of these migration flows on social co-existence in practice, since high levels of urbanization have been linked to the overrepresentation of migrants before criminal courts. Furthermore, historians have demonstrated that the interplay of migration and crime was a continuous issue of official concern from the sixteenth century onwards, and a crucial impetus behind the expansion and professionalization of the police forces across Europe.

 This project is part of the NWO funded project Tolerant Migrant Cities? The Case of Holland, 1600-1900 which is a collaborative project carried out at the IISH and Universiteit Leiden. Manon van der Heijden and Leo Lucassen are the principal investigators. Also part of the project team are Jeannette Kamp (Postdoctoral researcher) and Karlijn Luk (PhD candidate).

The Dam in Amsterdam