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:
- Political sociability, 1780-1880 (associations /societies of patriots and Orangists, gentlemen’s clubs and electoral associations, which offered a framework for political exchanges of thought and political action)
- Associations for care of the poor in the 19th century (of which the aim is largely economic)
- Roman Catholic religious fraternities in the Netherlands in the 19th century (as an example of associations with a religious objective)
- Sports associations, sports clubs and sports periodicals in the Netherlands up to 1940 (associations in the context of leisure and culture)
- Associations recognized on the basis of the Association Act, 1855-1890 (associations that were officially recognized and thus had the opportunity to act as legal entities)