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Against the current

The social mobility and integration of Jewish Dutch with a high(er) social status (1880-1940)

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, life in the Netherlands changed profoundly. Possibilities for social climbing came within reach of more people than ever before. This also applied to the Jewish Dutch minority, which constituted almost two percent of the total population around 1880. The following decennia, up until the German invasion in 1940, provided Jewish Dutch with novel opportunities as well as limitations for their individual life strategies. The interconnectedness between the subsequent (upward) social mobility of Jewish Dutch and their integration in society is interesting. However, the question arises if one indeed led to the other, and if so, if a causality always worked in the same direction.

Which individual life strategies defined the development of upward social mobility of high(er) social status Jewish Dutch between 1880 and 1940, and their level of integration in society, in the historical context? This question lies at the heart of the research project of PhD candidate Sietske van der Veen at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING). The Dutch Biography Portal (BioPort), with elaborate personal histories, will be her starting point for building a Nodegoat database with information on 445 prominent Jewish Dutch born between 1850 and 1920. Consequently, she plans to analyse intentional and unintentional strategies for upward social mobility in five domains: (1) work, (2) place of residence, (3) education, (4) marriage/family, and (5) association/party/union membership. Themes that most likely will receive special attention within the broader scope of the project are Jewish women, Jewish Dutch in the Dutch East Indies, Jewish Dutch in the mediene (apart from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague), and their contemporaries in France, Germany and Britain.

This project, financed by the KNAW Academy Institutes Research Fund, is part of the larger research project ‘Against the current’, an initiative of Huygens ING and the International Institute of Social History (IISH). At the IISH, PhD candidate Joris Kok studies the social mobility of Jewish diamond workers in pre-war Amsterdam.