Religious Autobiographies in the Netherlands: Authors, Publishers and Readers, 1750–1950
Keywords:Netherlands, Pietism, egodocuments, conversion narratives, labouring poor, social mobility, book history
In this article more than 200 religious autobiographies written by Dutch orthodox pietist men and women are analyzed. Although hardly studied so far, these texts were a substantial part of all printed Dutch egodocuments, especially in the period 1850–1950. The authors are nearly all from the lowest ranks of Dutch society, and therefore their texts offer unique information about life in villages and small towns in the Netherlands. This form of autobiographical writing goes back to the seventeenth century, and transformed from an oral culture to a written and printed culture as, from around 1800, the number of local publishers and printers grew. The role of middlemen, such as Reformed ministers, is also studied, as many of the authors were semi-literate. Information about editions and print runs show how popular some of these books were, and still are. Traces left by readers give additional information about ownership and circulation.
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