Life Writing "from Below" in Europe

Religious Autobiographies in the Netherlands: Authors, Publishers and Readers, 1750–1950


  • Arianne Baggerman Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Amsterdam
  • Rudolf Dekker



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.

Author Biographies

Arianne Baggerman, Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Amsterdam

Arianne Baggerman teaches history at the Erasmus Universit y Rotterdam and is professor in the histo ry of publishing and the book trade at the Univer sity of Am sterdam. She is the author of Publishing Policies and Family Strategies. The Fortunes of a Dutch Publishing House in the 18th and early 19th Centuries (Brill 2013). She is also co-editor of Controlling Time and Shaping the Self. Developments in Autobiographical Writing since the Sixteenth Century (Brill 2011). With Rudolf Dekker she published Child of the En lightenment, Revolutionary Europe reflected in a Boyhood Diary (Brill 2009).

Rudolf Dekker

Rudolf Dekker taught history at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Recent publications are The Diary of Constantijn Huygens Jr, Secretary to Stadholder­King William of Orange (Panchaud, 2016) and Family, Culture and Society in the Diary of Constantijn Huygens Jr, Secretary to Stadholder­King William of Orange (Brill 2013). He has also published about revolts, humour, and family history. Meer verleden dan toekomst. Geschiedenis van verdwijnend Nederland (Bert Bakker, 2008) is a short history of the Netherlands.





Life Writing "from Below" in Europe