Using ‘pre-crime scenes’ for the historical urban ethnography of early modern Amsterdam

This post is written by Bob Pierik who is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam. He is part of the NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) project ‘The Freedom of the Streets. Gender and Urban Space in Europe and Asia 1600-1850.’ Earlier this year he started a dissertation project on the gendered use of urban space in early modern Amsterdam.

Bob Pierik (University of Amsterdam)

In March 1710, ordinary life at the Amsterdam Botermarkt was disrupted when Grietje Veenendael, who had a market stand with stockings, was attacked by another market woman. The two women had a dispute over the location of their market stands after which Lena (last name unknown) pulled Grietje backwards and threw her on the ground. Lena’s two daughters and the husband of one of them joined the fight and kicked Grietje brutally.

After the violence, when Grietje had fled to the chief officer to make a statement, people gossiped in the market that a man had attacked Grietje. Perhaps this happened because of the presence of Lena’s son-in-law. Nevertheless, one of Lena’s daughters then returned to the scene to dispel those rumors. She told bystanders ‘while beating her chest’ that ‘it was no man who did that, but me and my mother.’[1]

In my research, I am trying to get a sense of embodied practices of gendered use of urban space. The above is a case that I was able to reconstruct through witness statements drawn up by the secretary of the Chief Officer, who was also sworn in as notary. It is a conflict arising over the claiming and using of space in an area with large numbers of women present. The witnesses that reported the story of Grietje’s assault were all women, the only man present in the narrative was Lena’s son-in-law, which is remarkable compared to similar cases. It shows the textile market as an urban space dominated by women. Continue reading “Using ‘pre-crime scenes’ for the historical urban ethnography of early modern Amsterdam”