The Historical Museum of The Hague is currently holding an exhibition entitled ‘Courtly Rivals: Elizabeth Stuart and Amalia van Solms’ that features locked letters of the 17th century. The letters have been brought to life thanks to some videos made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT Libraries’ conservator, Jana Dambrogio and others helped film six videos on the science of 17th century letterlocking.
‘Courtly Rivals’ is based on Dutch professor Nadine Akkerman’s publication by the same name, exploring the tense relationship between two of the most influential women in the Dutch Republic during the 17th century – Elizabeth Stuart, sometime Queen of Bohemia and her former lady-in-waiting Amalia von Solms, who became Princess of Orange in 1625. Elizabeth’s corpus of over 2,000 letters shows she was an astute politician, with a vast network of kings, queens, generals, ministers, church leaders, courtiers, and spies. Amalia’s correspondence has just come to light, but it appears she was no different. Both ladies, their secretaries, and their correspondents resorted to intricate methods to lock their letters shut.
(Links: www.haagshistorischmuseum.nl, libraries.mit.edu)
Tags: 17th century, letter writing, museum, The Hague
The name Wim is as Dutch as it gets, but how long will it remain in use? A 2009 booklet called Lang Leve Wim (Long Live Wim) by linguist Wim (!) Daniëls sounds the alarm.
I haven’t read the book myself, but one review quotes what appears to be the introduction: “In the past few years only a couple of Wims have been born. The peak for the name Wim was between 1950 and 1960 in the Netherlands and between 1970 and 1980 in Flanders.”
The Meertens Institute says there are still a good number of Wims walking around the country. Based on census data the institute estimates there are still about 3,500 men called Wim in the Netherlands, or 0.05% of the population. Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), the agency responsible for child support, says 13 baby boys were named Wim in 2013. That is definitely more than the ‘couple’ Daniëls speaks of, but not a chink in the armour of the top five of boys’ names in the Netherlands for 2013, Sem, Levi, Bram, Daan and Finn, which were given to sons more than 700 times each.
The situation is not as bad however as Wim Daniëls says. He has to use a trick to uphold his disaster story of dewimmification. As Bill is the short version of William in English, so is Wim the short version of Willem in Dutch. In 2013, again according to SVB, 264 boys were called Willem, and with a king bearing the same name I estimate the likeliness of that number to drop by much is low. Which, in the end, I think is a good thing. As Daniëls says, what would a world be without Wimmen?
(Link: Holly Moors)
Tags: language, names, Willem, Wim
These pictures of the Netherlands were taken by a Northumbrian photographer and show what the Dutch wore some 100 years ago. The women are not wearing national dress as the source indicates, but regional dress because the Netherlands is big enough to have had different styles. True, the past was “crisp, sharp and as high resolution” as today. And no, the little girl on the left is probably not smoking, but enjoying a traditional ‘stroopsoldaatje’ (‘syrup soldier’), a small paper cone filled with syrup, which you can still buy today.
The woman on the right below with different traditional attire than the girls looks like a woman from Zeeland, like this woman and margarine brand Zeeuws meisje. Looking more closely at the photograph, the ‘cafe restaurant’ on the right has a sign that says ‘on parle français’, (‘we speak French’), which tells me this is Zeeland as it borders Belgium, and back then the Flemish spoke a lot of French. Research tells me the ‘book, music and art store’ in the back could be 1465 De Koninklijke Boek-, Muziek- en Kunsthandel van F.B. den Boer in Middelburg, Zeeland on the corner of Lange Delft and Markt. There’s also a woman on the far right dressed quite normal for her era.
For a modern-day version of looking at Dutch people wearing traditional garb, you can visit the religious community of Staphorst, Overijssel who still dress according to local tradition.
(Link and photos: www.bbc.com, Tip: Thanks Fred!)
Tags: candy, Middelburg, Overijssel, Staphorst, sweets, traditional dress, Zeeland
The Indian Express has an extensive write-up about the production of Delftware:
I went to the Delft Pottery de Deltse Pauw, which was established in 1650. This factory exclusively produces and sells entirely hand-painted Delftware, which is a unique factor in this date.
The factory manager, Nico van Nieuwenhuijzen, discusses the origins of Delfts Blauw (Delftware), how it almost died out due to superior clays being used for competing brands of pottery and then gives the reporter a very thorough tour of the factory.
(Photo by Morgaine, some rights reserved)
Tags: craft, Delftware
Amsterdam in the Golden Age: the 17th century was a time when the city rapidly became an economic and cultural force to be reckoned with, and now apparently also the setting of British author Jessie Burton’s first novel entitled ‘The Miniaturist’. I haven’t read it and if anyone has, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
Set in 1686 Petronella ‘Nella’ Oortman, a Dutchwoman from the countryside marries rich Amsterdam merchant Johannes Brandt. Nella lives with her stern sister-in-law Marin and an intriguing dark-skinned manservant Otto. Nella almost never sees her busy husband who is either away or locked in his office at home and passes the time with a doll house gift from her husband that looks just like the house they live in. The doll house is slowly being filled with miniatures sent to Nella by an anonymous person who seems to know a lot about the people living in her house.
The doll house in question is on display at the Rijksmuseum, a small, nine-room house of porcelain, oak, marble and glass, which was the inspiration for Burton’s novel.
There’s more to tell, but then I think we’ll just have to read the novel to find out. I’m wondering how plausible the setting of 17th century Amsterdam is, I wonder about the female name ‘Marin’ and I know that if a Dutch person were to write a novel set in, oh, 18th century London, that it would also be culturally scrutinised by the media with good reason.
(Links: blog.chron.com, www.theguardian.com, Photo of the VOC HQ (East India Company) by Josh, distributed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)
Tags: Amsterdam, Jessie Burton
A 97-year-old man from Groesbeek, a village well known for its WWII cemetary, received two medals 70 years after WWII in the mail.
Arnold Nijenhuis wasn’t one to talk about the war, but recently started talking about it, telling stories. In one of his stories, his son Vincent understood that his father was put forth for a medal, but never received it. Vincent found a document in a pile of old papers to claim the medal and sent it in asking the Ministry of Defense to finally honour his father.
Almost like subscribing to a magazine, Arnold Nijenhuis was sent not one, but two medals, roughly translated as the War Memorial Cross as well as the Decoration for Order and Peace, again, in the mail.
(Link: www.gelderlander.nl, Photo of Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede 1947 by Robert Prummel, some rights reserved)
Tags: Groesbeek, medals, WWII
Overvalwagens.com is a website dedicated to “the research of military, commercial and improvised vehicles as used in the Netherlands East and West Indies before 1945″.
In May 1940 Nazi Germany conquered the Netherlands, but it did not gain control over Dutch India. The outbreak of WWII made acquisitions difficult however for KNIL, the army in Dutch India. Overvalwagens.com writes: “Often the Netherlands Purchasing Commission was forced to acquire vehicles (as well as other military equipment) that was by no means standard allied material. Sometimes they bought off-the-shelf prototypes or equipment rejected by the US armed forces.”
An example is the tank shown above, the Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA. This was produced by the only company in the US “building tanks commercially, while not being involved in the re-armament process of the US Forces”. An interesting vehicle because the gun turret could not turn all the way around. As a result they were sold and used in pairs, one gun covering the left flank, the other one the right.
(Link: Martin Wisse, Photo: British armed forces, now in the public domain)
Tags: armoured vehicles, colonialism, Indonesia, KNIL, tanks, weapons
The court of Amsterdam has handed down a ruling today that the entire Dutch media was waiting for about Zwarte Piet (‘Black Pete’, Saint Nicholas’ holiday time helper): it turns out he’s deemed “offensive to black people” and “racist” after all.
Although it was argued by many that Zwarte Piet is just some black figure and that he had nothing to do with slavery, a point that can surely be made, the blackface clown with exaggerated red lips and golden earrings apparently encourages a “negative stereotyping of black people”. In Dutch, when someone is made out to be the ‘bad guy’ in a situation, it is called to be the ‘Zwarte Piet’, which says a lot already about how he is viewed.
Today’s verdict only applies to Amsterdam and it remains to be seen what the rest of the country will make of such a strong and old tradition being struck down. Internet comments are not the nicest at the moment, blaming a few people for ruining it for everybody else and that sort of thing.
I wonder if Zwarte Piet is worth being the perpetual ‘bad guy’ and ‘whipping boy’ for a deeper discussion about racial stereotypes that needs to happen and will see where history will collectively take the Netherlands on this one.
(Link: www.nieuws.nl, Photo: tobysterling.net)
Tags: Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet
The City of Amsterdam subsidized a free educational game entitled ‘Road to Freedom’ that was 1.5 years in the making to teach children about Dutch slavery in Suriname. It was produced by the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy and designed by Pepergroen to mark the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
The Afro-Surinamese community in the Netherlands wasn’t thrilled with the game, but neither were the Americans at Apple who called the content ”slanderous and insulting”. A quick Google search shows that Apple is not a fan of anything with slaves in it, like this sweatshop app.
On the one hand, anything too culturally confrontational makes many people from countries with unresolved colonial pasts uncomfortable and on the other, anything that is presented in a game format already downgrades the importance of historical relevance. If I were at school today and someone gave me a flee from a Russian labour camp game, I’d have a real problem with it and so would my parents.
I do get what the makers were trying to do, but unfortunately they have managed to trivialize something that deserves a much better platform. A Dutch friend of mine would say, ‘het idee is goed, maar de uitvoering is klote’ (‘The idea is good, but the execution is crap’).
UPDATE The video we had up yesterday introducing the game has been pulled offline.
(Link: www.joop.nl, www.volkskrant.nl, Screenshot of the game before it was yanked offline)
Tags: Apple, apps, slavery, slaves, Suriname
The Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam lives up to its name and trades in ‘totalitarian memorabilia’.
As far as memorabilia go, things don’t get much more totalitarian than Adolf Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ (‘My Struggle’). That book is said to be illegal in the Netherlands and if it is not, we will soon find out.
Last Friday at noon exactly a pair of detectives entered The Totalitarian Art Gallery at the Singel canal in Amsterdam and ascertained that, yes, store keeper Michiel van Eyk did indeed own a copy of Mein Kampf and yes, he did intend to sell it. The detectives proceeded to confiscate the book and to hand Van Eyk a summons, AT5 reports.
Last January Van Eyk was interrogated for “about an hour” at an unnamed police station about his motives for selling the controversial book. He told AT5 back then: “I don’t want to defend myself, I want this to go to court.” His wish is now granted, a first session has been planned for 26 August. Van Eyk will get to defend himself against charges of hate speech.
Mein Kampf’s legality is yet to be tested in the Netherlands, but hasn’t been much of an issue so far. The copyright to the book is held by the government of the state of Bavaria in Germany and will only run out in 2016. In 1997 Winnie Sorgdrager, then Minister of Justice, told parliament that the act of selling the book would expose a person to prosecution on the basis of article 137e of the Dutch criminal code, which forbids hate speech. She added that a publication was conceivably legal in a “scientifically responsible publication”, which she interpreted as “a publication in which the publisher or editor [...] distance themselves of the contents of the original text”. That must have been the dumbest take on science that I have seen in at least a week. (Yes, it’s been a slow week).
(Photo by Adam Jones, some rights reserved)
Tags: Adolf Hitler, barratry, censorship, free speech, Mein Kampf, police brutality, Winnie Sorgdrager