In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Dutch Republic: 17th-18th Centuries

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Series and Journals
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works
  • Archival and Library Guides
  • Dutch Tolerance and the Jews
  • First Settlement
  • Historiography
  • Amsterdam Jewish Book Industry
  • Material Culture
  • Dutch Jews and Sabbateanism
  • Jews and Dutch Culture
  • Dutch Jewry and the Colonies
  • Enlightenment and Emancipation Period

Jewish Studies Dutch Republic: 17th-18th Centuries
Bart Wallet
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0079


Small Jewish communities began to appear soon after the establishment of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, which came into being following the Union of Utrecht in 1588. Most of these were established in the main province of Holland in its major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. The States of Holland, the highest political organ in the province, decided not to formulate a comprehensive policy on the admission and terms of settlement of Jews. The cities were thus free to adopt their own policies. The example of the province of Holland was followed by other provinces to the extent that they all drew up their own policies. Major differences existed within the Dutch Republic, with Amsterdam welcoming Jews, while other cities, such as Utrecht, did not allow them to settle. The first communities were founded by Iberian immigrants, who arrived as “New Christians” but gradually transformed into “New Jews.” Their transnational networks and connections to colonial trade gave them a prominent position in the developing Dutch economy. These Sephardic communities paved the way for Ashkenazim, who settled in the Dutch Republic as refugees fleeing the Thirty Years War in Germany and the Chmielnicki pogroms of 1648–1649. During the 17th century, the Sephardim dominated, but from the 18th century onward the demographic balance shifted in favor of the Ashkenazim. In 1795, the armies of revolutionary France invaded the Dutch Republic and the Batavian Republic was subsequently founded. In 1796, Jews were formally emancipated and received full political and civil rights. Research on Dutch Jewry oscillates between a focus on exceptionalism and on a larger, transnational interpretation of both Dutch policies of toleration and the specific character of Dutch Jewish communities. Beginning in the 19th century, most research has concentrated on the Amsterdam Sephardim, mainly in the 17th-century Dutch “Golden Age.” New scholarship since the 1980s also includes, or even concentrates on, the Ashkenazic communities, Jews outside of Amsterdam, and the 18th-century transformation of relations among Jews themselves and between Jews and Christians.

General Overviews

The first work to provide an overview of Dutch Jewish history is Koenen 1843. Although Koenen tried to cover the whole range of that history, the central focus on Sephardim and Amsterdam is evident in the work. Theoretically, Seeligmann 1923 has been very influential in introducing the concept of a “species hollandia judaica.” Dutch Jews were supposed to have developed into a specific subspecies of European Jewry as they adapted themselves to the relatively tolerant policies of the Dutch Republic. The first comprehensive volume dealing entirely with Jews in the Dutch Republic, Brugmans and Frank 1940, also stressed the unique characteristics of Dutch Jews. Although it continues to offer a valuable overview, as it is partly based on archival material lost during World War II, Brugmans and Frank 1940 was replaced by two major books: Michman, et al. 1992 and Blom, et al. 2002. Michman, et al. 1992 stresses the continuous strength of transnational Jewish networks and is much more critical of Dutch policies of toleration than are earlier works. The volume is especially valuable for the encyclopedic entries on the histories of all Jewish communities outside of Amsterdam. Blom, et al. 2002 offers a concise introduction, with chapters written by the leading scholars in the field. The most recent textbook, summarizing the present status of research, is a reworked edition of the edited volume Blom, et al. 2021, which also includes several new chapters. An overview in which Dutch Jewry is positioned in the larger European Jewish landscape is offered in Wallet and Zwiep 2018. A wealth of visual material is assembled in Gans 1977, which does not have scholarly pretenses but offers a rich canvas on Dutch Jewish life. For a broad approach, in which the history of Amsterdam Jews is treated in a European framework, Israel 1998 is still the best work to consult. Israel and Salverda 2002 includes a collection of essays on various relevant topics.

  • Blom, Johan C. H., Renate G. Fuks-Mansfeld, and Ivo Schöffer. The History of the Jews in the Netherlands. Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans and Erica Pomerans. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2002.

    Originally published in Dutch (1995), covering the period from medieval times to the postwar period. Early modern history is dealt with by Daniel M. Swetschinski, Jonathan I. Israel, Yosef Kaplan and Renate G. Fuks-Mansfeld. The year 1750 is taken as a main caesura, separating the Enlightenment period and the ancien régime. Sephardic and Ashkenazic history are integrated in single chapters, although more attention is given to the Sephardim than to the Ashkenazim.

  • Blom, Hans, David J. Wertheim, Hetty Berg, and Bart T. Wallet. Reappraising the History of the Jews in the Netherlands. Translated by David McKay. London: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2021.

    Published in association with Liverpool University Press, an entirely reworked edition of the 2002 handbook, with several new chapters added. Next to traditional subjects such as the internal structures of the Jewish communities and their relationship with the wider society, new topics explored here include the socioeconomic aspects of Dutch Jewish life, the history of the Ashkenazim, and the colonial contexts in which early modern Jews in the Dutch Republic were embedded.

  • Brugmans, Hendrik  K., and Abraham Frank, eds. Geschiedenis der Joden in Nederland. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1940.

    The apotheosis of pre–World War II study of Dutch Jewry, decisively approaching its history from a national Dutch perspective. The strength of the volume is more in cataloguing and documenting Jewish institutional, intellectual, and religious history than in offering a satisfactory analysis. Sephardic and Ashkenazic histories are dealt with separately. Some chapters have the character of “the Jewish contribution to” genre, in this case sciences and philosophy.

  • Gans, Max Heiman. Memorbook: History of Dutch Jewry from the Renaissance to 1940. Baarn, The Netherlands: Bosch & Keuning, 1977.

    Although nostalgic in its aim, documenting Jewish life that once was, Gans brings together paintings, pictures, pamphlets, and poems that together constitute a Fundgrube for research.

  • Israel, Jonathan I. European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550–1750. 3d ed. Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1998.

    Economic approach to European Jewish history, with particular attention to Dutch Jewry. Israel offers an explanation for Amsterdam Jewry’s successes and their gradual downfall in the 18th century.

  • Israel, Jonathan I., and Reinier Salverda, eds. Dutch Jewry: Its History and Secular Culture, 1500–2000. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

    Edited volume of which the first part—nine essays—concentrates entirely on the early modern period. The emphasis is on Sephardic history, with only two essays dealing with Ashkenazic issues. The volume assembles a number of valuable case studies on, for example, demography, legal issues, and marriage patterns as well as changing sexual mores, theater, and art.

  • Koenen, H. J. Geschiedenis der Joden in Nederland. Utrecht, The Netherlands: Van der Post, 1843.

    First comprehensive history of Dutch Jewry, striving for objectivity but written from a pietistic Protestant point of view. Heavily influenced by the author’s apostate friend, the poet Isaac da Costa. Presently only of historiographical value.

  • Michman, Jozeph, Hartog Beem, and Dan Michman. Pinkas: Geschiedenis van de Joodse gemeenschap in Nederland. Amsterdam: Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap, 1992.

    Enlarged and reworked edition of Hebrew original (Pinkas hakehillot—Holland [Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, 1985]), offering an interpretation of Dutch Jewish history from an international Jewish rather than a national Dutch perspective.

  • Seeligmann, Sigmund. “Die Juden in Holland: Eine Charakteristik.” In Festskrift i Anledning af Prof. D. Simonsen’s 70-årige Fødselsdag. Edited by Josef Fischer, Aron Freimann, and Julius Guttmann, 253–257. Copenhagen: Hertz, 1923.

    Classic essay stressing the nature of Dutch Jewry, connecting Dutch tolerance and the Sephardic experience.

  • Wallet, Bart T., and Irene E. Zwiep. “Locals: Jews in the Early Modern Dutch Republic.” In The Early Modern World, 1500–1815. Vol. 7 of The Cambridge History of Judaism. Edited by Jonathan Karp and Adam Sutcliffe, 894–922. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

    Chapter reinterpreting early modern Jewish history in the Dutch Republic, challenging a narrative of rise, decline, and fall. Instead, the authors reassess the 18th century as one in which Jews developed a pronounced local identity, expressed as well in political involvement in the Republic’s affairs. It is argued that these factors account for the Jews’ early participation in Dutch national politics and in the general Enlightenment.

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