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Association life in the Netherlands thrived in the 19th century. Estimates put the number of associations spread across the country at hundreds of thousands, varying from reading clubs to nationally operating associations with hundreds of members.

Associations are interesting research projects, they are regarded as institutionalized forms of sociability. As a result of the non-hierarchical mutual relationships between members, the custom that decisions were taken on the basis of the majority of votes and other characteristic rules, they may possibly have functioned as a kind of preparatory structures for democratic behaviour. Research on associations dovetails with international interest in the ‘civil society’, independent of state and market. Associations are also gauges of the typical Dutch phenomenon of pillarization (politico-denominational segregation), and are a significant theme in urban-historical research.

Five Indices to associations will be compiled, four of which are thematically determined:

Contact

dr. Milja van Tielhof