Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Crime and gender before the courts of the Netherlands, 1600-1800

The central aim is to systematically study differences in gendered crime patterns in the records of different types of courts in various Dutch cities in the early modern period.

Duration
2012  -   2015
Contact
Ariadne Schmidt
Funding
NWO VICI NWO VICI

Historians have shown that the gender gap in crime rates the early modern period was much smaller than in modern times. During the 17 th and 18 th century, women played a much more prominent role in criminality than in the 20 th century. Particularly in Dutch cities female criminality appeared to be exceptionally high due, a phenomenon that is often linked both to the greater opportunities and dangers for women in the city. But how representative is this image of female criminality for the Netherlands? This project aims to compare the gendered crime patterns in the records of different types of courts in Amsterdam, Leiden, Rotterdam and Gouda between 1600 and 1810.

There is a longstanding assumption that women are less criminal than men, and that this is a historically static phenomenon. However, the last two decades studies have shown that patterns of female involvement in crime are far less static and unequivocal than has previously been assumed. Historians have shown that the gender gap in crime rates the early modern period was much smaller than in modern times. During the 17 th and 18 th century, women played a much more prominent role in criminality than in the 20 th century. Particularly in Dutch cities female criminality appeared to be exceptionally high due, a phenomenon that is often linked both to the greater opportunities and dangers in the city.

Yet, hitherto, much remains unknown about the relation between the prominence of women in the criminal courts and the high level of urbanization. In the research on women and crime the city is often (implicitly) presented as a pars pro toto for urban criminality in general. Little attention has been paid to the possible differentiation and fluctuations in female crime rates in the early modern period in various towns. And we still do not know very much about the personal background of the offenders, especially from a comparative perspective. Can the high female crime rates in Holland be explained by the level of urbanization? Did, in other words the specific urban pattern in the west of the Dutch Republic generate a specific Randstad-type of female criminal or result in a Randstad pattern of female criminality? Or were the patterns of female criminality differentiated and related to the local context? Is it, in other words, possible to make a typology of cities of crime?

In order to answer these questions this study compares patterns of female crime and the background of female criminals based on the criminal court records from four cities different cities: Amsterdam, the largest city of the Dutch Republic, the port city of Rotterdam, the large textile city of Leiden, and the medium sized industrial town of Gouda.

Connection with other research

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