Het Amsterdams hoerdom
Prostitutie in de zeventiende en achttiende eeuw
A study of the vibrant life of Amsterdam’s red light district in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
Het Amsterdams hoerdom can be read as the history of the Golden Age from below. It is a story of dark lanes and meagre earnings – an occasionally disabusing panorama of the full life led by society’s underbelly. For Amsterdam and its inhabitants, prostitution has been a clearly present and much-discussed problem for centuries: a necessary evil because of the large numbers of dissolute seamen in the city.
Amsterdam’s reputation as a city of prostitutes is age old. It has been current since the Middle Ages and by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was no longer possible to write it off as a marginal phenomenon. The city was crawling with whores, madams, procurers and brothels. Prostitution was a flourishing profession which also employed washerwomen, servants, drink suppliers, doormen and musicians.
During her research Lotte van de Pol delved deeply into public records, making particular use of prisoners’ confessions and the transcripts from the trials of thousands of prostitutes. She also makes intelligent use of a great diversity of sources such as travel descriptions, brothel guidebooks, sea shanties and paintings. She gives clear, insightful descriptions of the prostitutes in all their colourful diversity, the customers who came from far and wide, the moralists, the administrators, the chirurgeons with their objections, the bailiffs, the judges and the governors of the spinning houses.
Het Amsterdams hoerdom has more to offer than just a picturesque description of prostitutes and their customers in early modern Holland. The book also sheds light on the relationships between men and women and the cultural and social conditions of poor women in the Dutch Republic. Lotte van de Pol provides a fascinating account of the lives led by the seventeenth and eighteenth century inhabitants of a booming Amsterdam.