Church and Religious History

It is impossible to study humankind’s past without understanding religious currents and their influence on society.

The war of independence against Catholic Spain (1568-1648) turned the United Provinces of the Netherlands into a reformed nation where Protestantism’s many voices were audible. The comprehensive Church and Religious History collection contains unique manuscripts, printed books, pamphlets and prints that are essential for understanding society at the time and today.

Important source for teaching and research

During the 17th and 18th centuries, there was leeway in Amsterdam for religious societies that dissented from the dominant reformed church. There were few obstacles to the production and dissemination of printed matter by Lutherans, Baptists or Remonstrants, for example. And even literature expressly banned by the city often found its way to the reader. A blind eye was often turned to infringements of the law in this respect.

The library of the University van Amsterdam has collected much of this material. While virtually all religious currents are represented in this part of the collection, the emphasis is on manuscripts, printed books (including clandestine bibles) and the pamphlets of the dissenters. At the end of the 19th century, the library was enriched by a collection of books on the Roman Catholic Church and the Jesuit Order. The library of the Begijnhof in Amsterdam followed in the 20th century. The Church and Religious History part of the collection has become an important source for teaching and research as a result of the wide range of topics and the diversity of the material. The legacies of religious leaders, such as Hendrik Niclaes, Jean de Labadie, Antoinette de Bourignon and others, are of great significance. The bible editions, along with those of the Free University Amsterdam and the Catholic University of Leuven, form the most important source for the Biblia Sacra online bibliography. The United Baptist Community of Amsterdam (VDGA) continues to contribute to the growth of this part of the collection.