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How the Dutch press in the seventeenth century brought distant suffering nearby

On 27 November 2019, David de Boer defended his PhD dissertation 'Religious Persecution and Transnational Compassion in the Dutch Vernacular Press 1655-1745'. For his research, he analysed several hundred pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals published primarily in the seventeenth-century Netherlands, at that time the news hub of Europe.

News from abroad

David de Boer researched how journalists and opinion makers used news publications about persecutions to help create a culture of compassion for distant strangers in the century between the wars of religion and the Enlightenment. Even after the wars of religion, Europe was still regularly confronted with the persecution of religious minorities. Within European societies, there was a growing demand for news about atrocities in foreign lands. By responding to this demand, the Dutch press made international causes célèbres of, among others, the persecution of the Huguenots in France, the Reformed Waldensians in northern Italy, and the Lutherans in Poland.

How long have we been able to read about foreign suffering in the news?

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Why do people find news about religious persecution important? What impact did these reports have on domestic and international politics? And could all persecuted minorities count on the same amount of media attention? By seeking answers to these questions, David de Boer also holds up a mirror to today's society. Why is one story of suffering considered news, while another one is not?

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