Amsterdam (1500–1800): Notions of privacy inherent in civic distinctions and their architectural bearings

Early modern Amsterdam was a place of rapid transformation: starting in the 16th century, there was a population boom, transforming Amsterdam into an important European city, known for its religious tolerance, expansion of trade, and accommodation of migrants from various parts of Europe. These circumstances allowed a shift in political power, with rich merchants mostly of Reformed faith replacing the Catholic aristocracy of older times.

Starting from the assumption that in Amsterdam, a diverse set of relationships between individuals and society served as catalysers for innovative practices of privacy, our research team zooms in on particular historical documents that allow us to study such varied local developments as:

  • The productive co-existence and interaction between numerous religious and culturally diverse groups
  • A series of financial inventions: public bank (wisselbank), public trading shares
  • Large scale planning for expansion of the city and accommodation of a constantly growing population
  • Important innovations in architecture and art
  • The emergence of a distinct “bourgeois” culture

For that, our team examines a wide variety of historical documents, such as autobiographies, letters, diaries, architectural drawings, visual art works, buildings, notarial records, police files, legislation and learned treatises.


  • Research seminar “Zones of Privacy in the Early Modern Netherlands” from 21-22 March 2019
  • Research trips to the Amsterdam City Archives in July and September 2018.
  • “Amsterdam Interiors: Privacy in Temporary Accommodation” as a thematic focus for the winter term at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK) Master in Architecture and Design


Natália da Silva Perez, Peter Thule Kristensen, and case team leader Michaël Green.