Women and Crime in Early Modern Holland


Crime is men’s business, isn’t it? Women are responsible for 10 percent of crime in Europe. Yet, if we look at the Dutch Republic in the early modern period, we find that in the towns of Holland women played a much larger role in crime. In a number of early modern towns about half of the criminals convicted in court were women. These women were in vulnerable positions and thus more likely to become involved in crime. They also had a relatively independent status and led remarkably public lives. Manon van der Heijden convincingly shows that it is the very combination of women’s vulnerability and independence that accounts for the high female crime rates in Holland between 1600 and 1800.

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Manon van der Heijden, Ph.D. (1998), Leiden University, is Professor of Comparative Urban History. She has published several monographs on early modern urban history and many articles on marriage law, public services, and crime and justice.
"Stilistisch angenehm schnörkellos geschrieben bzw. von David McKay in flüssiges und leicht lesbares Englisch übersetzt, bietet van der Heijden eine deskriptive Synthese des empirischen Forschungsstands. Jedes Kapitel schließt mit einer konzisen Zusammenfassung. Ein gut durchdachtes Sachregister erleichtert die schnelle Orientierung über die jeweiligen thematischen Aspekte."
Francisca Loetz, Zürich, in: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 45 (2018) 1, pp. 167-169.

"This book is the product of Van der Heijden’s wide-ranging research interests and is a great contribution to several academic fields. I recommended it for anyone interested in crime, Dutch law, marriage, and women during the early modern period."
Amanda Pipkin, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, in: Renaissance Quarterly, Volume LXX, No. 4, pp. 1570-1571.

"In Women and Crime in Early Modern Holland, Manon Van der Heydenconvincingly tackles some persistent assumptions about the criminal behavior of early modern women. [...] Smoothly combining legal history, gender history and social and economic history, the author discusses the daily experiences, worries – such as poverty – and aspirations of early modern female criminals. [...] The wealth of information combined with constant comparing of early modern crimes with their current definitions ensures that this book is of value for both professionals and the broader public."
Ans Vervaeke, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in: BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, Volume 133 (2018), review 44.

"Anyone interested in crime, urbanization, or gender history can profit from reading this volume. Van der Heijden is a reliable guide to the situation in the cities of Holland, to the status of women, and to the complexities of the Dutch legal system.
Mary Lindemann, University of Miami, in: EMWJ, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Fall 2018), pp. 233-236.
Series Editors’ Preface ... vii
Preface ... ix
List of Graphs, Tables and Figures ... xi

1 Research on Criminal Women in Holland from 1550 to 1800 ... 1
Crime Figures in the Early Modern Period ... 2
Explanations for Female Crime ... 9
The Criminal Woman Vanishes ... 13
The Special Position of Holland ... 17

2 Crime and Punishment ... 24
Serious Crimes ... 25
Administration of Justice ... 28
Criminal Procedure ... 32
Settlements with the Public Prosecutor ... 35
Sentencing ... 38
Reporting Crime and Chances of Arrest ... 44
The Importance of Honor and Reputation ... 46

3 Infanticide ... 48
Prosecution for Infanticide ... 51
Unwed Motherhood ... 56
Money and Honor ... 58
Driven by Desperation ... 60

4 Women and Petty Theft ... 62
Diffferences between Men and Women ... 63
A Consumer Revolution in Theft ... 69
Poverty as a Motive for Theft ... 72

5 Aggressive Women in the Neighborhood ... 77
Violence: A Male Crime? ... 78
Statistics on Women and Violence ... 82
Patterns of Violence by Women ... 87
A Public Life ... 91

6 Promiscuous Women ... 98
What are Sexual Offfenses? ... 99
Legislation ... 103
Carnal Intercourse ... 106
Cohabitation ... 110
Compelled by Circumstances ... 111
Adultery ... 113
The Hard Lives of Sailors’ Wives ... 119
Outside Assistance ... 122

7 Against Authority ... 128
Women’s Role in Unrest ... 129
Begging ... 135
Tax Evasion ... 138

8 Victim or Perpetrator? ... 140
Rape and Assault ... 141
Incest ... 148
Domestic Violence ... 152

Conclusions ... 160

Bibliography ... 165
Index ... 178
All interested in the history of crime and justice and women’s lives in the early modern period.