Het Menniste Haarlem

Duration: 2024-2028
Subsidy provider: Stichting Hendriks van Marum
Subsidy size: 260.000 euro
Remarkable: The influence of the small Mennonite community in Haarlem is brought to the forefront and thoroughly analysed.

During the development and growth which Haarlem experienced during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the relatively small Mennonite community played a big role. These Mennonites established themselves in the city in the second half of the sixteenth century and contributed immensely to Haarlem’s trade, the arts and scientific societies. This influence will be explored and analyses in this research project.

The goal of this project is to map out, in both literal and figurative sense, the Mennonite community in Haarlem. This will be done by researching primary sources and digital network analysis. On top of that, the question of why this small community could grow from a small marginalized subset of Christians into the main contributors to enlightened subjects like Biblical criticism, science, art production, and publishing.

An intellectual network

This project will answer how the production and distribution of this groundbreaking culture was established. How could this small community emerge to be a trendsetter both nationally and internationally in diverse cultural areas which were very much connected: drawing, engraving, and painting; the first Dutch newspaper; publishing (and selling) books; instrument- and clockmaking; collecting naturalia and curiosities; establishing ‘genootschappen’; establishing and funding drawing- and astronomical colleges; poets, writers; and authors criticizing superstition.

Research has been done about specific individuals from Mennonite Haarlem, like Carel van Mander and Pieter Teyler van der Hulst. There has however been little attention for the entire intellectual network in the city. Sources for this project can be found in the database and ‘acta’ of the current Mennonite church in the city: Doopsgezind Haarlem. On top of that, the Noord-Hollands archief contains diverse notarized archives, notes on multiple foundations and ‘genootschappen’, and the Barnaart family archive which has recently been handed over.

Small community, large influence

The ‘mennisten’ which moved to Haarlem after for example the Fall of Antwerp, focused themselves on the industries and trade within the city. This led to an enormous of knowledge and capital in the eighteenth century, resulting in a large and diverse network of foundations and ‘genootschappen’. The most famous example of this is the Teylers Stichting (1778), although there were many more. Within 250 years the cohesive community developed strongly resulting in many innovations and activities, which were all strongly connected. This varied from cloth trade to radical Biblical criticism, and breakthroughs in many research fields, such as the production of newspapers, magazines, and books. We can without a doubt and any exaggeration conclude that Mennonite Haarlem was one of the main breading grounds for the Enlightenment, in which inclusivity and diversification were so important.