Letters of Mercy: Migration, Religion and Communication

Academic year2019-2020
Number of meetings        10
Schedule 2019-2020
course 1
Tuesday 3 September, 18.00-21.00
Field Trip City Walk "Amsterdam as a City of Migrants" (you will be informed about the meeting point)
course 2
Tuesday 10 September, 18.00-21.00
State, Religion and Migration Contexts
course 3
Tuesday 17 September, 18:00-21:00Religious expressions and organizations of migrants abroad 17th-21th century
course 4Tuesday 24 September, 18:00-21:00State and Religion abroad: Embassy Chapels in Istanbul/Smyrna, Lisbon, Madrid and Paris in comparative perspective
course 5Wednesday 2-Friday 4 October        
International Field Trip to Istanbul (arrival Tuesday 1 October)
course 6Tuesday 8 October (date with a provisio)Field Trip to Turkish Embassay, The Hague
course 7
Tuesday 15 October, 18:00-21:00State, Religion and Migration Contexts II
course 8
Friday 18 October, 10.00-12.00Field Trip to Municipal Archives Amsterdam: Embassies abroad
course 9
Monday 18 November 18.00-21.00
Closing Student Conference: Presentation of group papers
LocationTuesday evenings at Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV Amsterdam
RoomBV-1H26 (BelleVU building is number 1091 at this map. You can reach the building via the main entrance)
  • Prof. dr. G. (George) Harinck, Professor of the History of Protestantism, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Director of the Neo-Calvinism Research Institute, Theological University Kampen 
  • Dr. C. (Leon) van den Broeke, Associate Professor Religion, Law and Society/Church Polity, Chair Centre for Religion and Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Associate Professor Church Polity, Theological University Kampen

Course Description

Ship and Church, acta  example of an "Acta"

Your focus in this course is on the crossroad of State, Religion and Migration Contexts. The reasons for this course are twofold. 
  • First, the current migration crisis around the globe. Refugees flee in order to find a (better) paradise. Migrants try to find a place where they are safe and can express their cultural, social and/or their religious values. 
  • Second, in recent years, a rich and varied set of archival sources has been retrieved in the Amsterdam City Archives. For centuries, the delegates of some classic assemblies of the Dutch Reformed Church have corresponded with representatives of the Dutch East and West India Companies, with maritime societies trading with Russia, the Baltic, and Eastern Mediterranean, but also with the board members of the five admiralties in the Netherlands.

    This correspondence (including the acta) of these deputies for maritime or Indies affairs has been saved for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and provides an intriguing view into the religious and commercial life of both the delegates as well as the persons addressed by them. This network could only be maintained due to the maritime context. Throughout history Dutch maritime endeavors have been sparked by various internal and external factors. These factors can be political, economic, military and sociocultural by nature. Due to the maritime infrastructure people were able to migrate, not only because of the above-mentioned factors, but also because of religious reasons.

In the context of State, Religion and Migration Contexts you focus on the so-called Dutch embassy(chapels) in Istanbul, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Sardinia and on foreign embassy (chapels) in the Netherlands. They reveal something about the crossroad of state and religion in a migration context. Cultural, societal and/or religious expressions in the public domain differ depending the political and religious contexts.

The program is multifaceted and intense. You will be taken on: 

  • a historical, maritime and religious city walk through Amsterdam; 
  • a visit of the City Archives 
  • a visit to one of the foreign embassies in The Hague 
  • a visit to the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam 
  • an international field trip of about four days to Istanbul

Learning goals
The general aim of this course is to get a better understanding of the intertwinement between state, religion and migration. At the end of this course you will be able to: 

  • have a clearer understanding of the interplay between state, religion and migration 
  • explain the history of the Dutch who emigrated in the past four centuries 
  • identify different types of state 
  • analyze the role of religion in processes of migration 
  • signalize the variety in religion  
  • evaluate the history and today's context of migration 


You write a(n): 

  • (English written) individual report related to the field trips (grading: 1/4) Amsterdam City Walk or the Amsterdam City Archives or the Foreign Embassy The Hague and Istanbul or alternative assignment. This report will count as 25% of the final grade.
  • (English written) group essay (grading: 2/4) write as a group your group essay (50% of the final grade); the maximum is 3.500 words, the minimum 3.000 words.
  • (English speaking) group Presentation (grading 1/4). These presentations will count as 25% of the final grade.
You attend at least 80% of the classes. As the field trips are an essential part of the course you participate in at least three of the field trips. If not, you receive an extra assignment.

  • Harinck, George and Augustus J. Veenendaal jr., ‘Transatlantic Transportation and Travelers’ Experience’, in: Hans Krabbendam, Cornelis A. van Minnen, Giles Scott-Smith (eds.), Four Centuries of Dutch-American Relations 1609-2009 (Amsterdam/New York 2009) 318-328 
  • Garnett, Jane, Rescripting Religion in the City: Migration and Religious Identity in the Modern Metropolis, Farnham/Burlington: Ashgate, 2013 
  • Israel, Jonatan, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806, Oxford: Clarendon, 1995 
  • Kuyper, A., Om de oude wereldzee I (Amsterdam 1907), hoofdstuk Constantinopel, 349-362 
  • Pamuk, Orhan, Istanbul. Memories and the city (Istanbul 2003) many editions and translations (English, Dutch and Turkish) 
  • Noorlander, Danny, Serving God and Mammon: The Reformed Church and the Dutch West India Company in the Atlantic World, 1621-1674, diss., Washington DC, 2011 
  • Trimble, William Raleigh. “The Embassy Chapel Question, 1625-1660.” The Journal of Modern History, vol. 18, no. 2, 1946, pp. 97–107. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1872115 
  • Van den Broeke, Leon and Joost Schokkenbroek, “Quo patet orbis Dei: Dutch Deputies for maritime affairs and their global network in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.” Journal of Maritime History. vol. 31.1 (2019), 19-33; DOI: 10.1177/0843871418824964.