Conference: Amsterdam as Haven 10, 11, 12 November

Amsterdam as Haven for Religious Refugees in the Early Modern Period

In the 17th century Amsterdam became a hotbed of religious exchange, as religious exiles from all over the continent flocked to the Netherlands and especially its capital city because of relatively lax laws on religious expression and publishing. One center of such exchange was the so-called House with the Heads on Keizersgracht, the home of Louis de Geer and later his son Laurens. Both men acted as patrons to a variety of religious free thinkers and reformers. Figures such as Jan Comenius, Friedrich Breckling and Christian Hoburg gathered in the de Geer home to discuss their ideas. Today, the House with the Heads is home to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica and its associated museum, the Embassy of the Free Mind. We are currently preparing an exhibition on the history of the House with the Heads. As part of these preparations, we are hosting a conference 11-12 November 2022 on the role of Amsterdam as a haven for religious refugees.

Over two days, a group of international experts will explore different groups’ or individuals’ experiences (Jews, Radical Pietists, Huguenots, etc.), the role of publishing in the city, patronage, conflicts between groups, urban versus rural strategies for survival, the role of war in the era and other related topics. The conference will take place on-site, but will also accommodate speakers from afar through digital connection. Likewise, the public can attend in person or remotely. A conference publication is planned.

Those who wish to attend in person should contact the Director of the Ritman Research Institute, Lucinda Martin: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Those who wish to view lectures remotely by zoom should request a link from Junior Researcher Kyra Gerber: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tickets to attend the evening lecture by Emile Schrijver will be sold separately. Tickets can be bought here.

Image: Jews in the Synagogue. AfterRembrandt van Rijn


Conference Program
Amsterdam as Haven for Religious Refugees in the Early Modern Period

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Greeting / Opening of Conference

(19:30 CET, by Zoom 1:30 pm EST)
Lucinda Martin, Director, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica and Ritman Research Institute, The House with the Heads as Refuge in the 17th century

Keynote Address
19:45 Emile Schrijver
, General Director, Jewish Cultural Quarter Amsterdam, The Book Culture of the first Generations of Portuguese Jewish Refugees in Amsterdam

21:00 Reception at the Foyer of the Embassy of the Free Mind


Friday, 11 November 2022

9:00 Guided Tour of the “House with the Heads” and Rare Book Tour in
         the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica
(for conference speakers only)

10:00 Coffee


Panel 1 (Chair: Bart Wallet, Universiteit Amsterdam)

10:30 Susanne Lachenicht (Universität Bayreuth)

Refugee Cities in 16th and 17th Century Europe

11:15  Hans Wallage (Universiteit Amsterdam)

Amsterdam as Haven: A Refugee Creation

12:00 Stephanie Bode (Universität Augsburg)

“Le Refuge & l’Azile de toutes les Nations” –
The Construction of a Haven for Religious Refugees in Amsterdam Publications, 1680-1715

12:45  Lunch (Provided at the Conference Site for speakers)


Panel 2 (Chair: Heide Warncke, Ets Haim Library)

14:00 Kyra Gerber (Universität Amsterdam / Ritman Research Institute)

The Peculiar Ordinary:  Everyday Jewish Amsterdam in the 17th and 18th Century

14:45 Florian Wieser (University of Edinburgh)

Señores de la Cofradía de Holanda: Amsterdam and the Jewish Diaspora in the 17th-Century Spanish Empire

15:30 Daniel Rafiqi (University of London, digital connection)

‘That Town I Yearned For’: Representations of Arrival in Huguenot Refugees’ Autobiographical Writings, 1686-1712

16:30 “Radical Amsterdam” Walking Tour

18:30 Conference Dinner (for speakers only, location to be announced)


Saturday, 12 November 2022


Panel 3 (Chair: Nina Schroeder, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

9:00   Leigh T.I. Penman (Monash University, Australia, digital connection)

Books in Exile: Toward a history of German-language heterodox printing in the United Provinces

9:45 Andreas Pietsch (Universität Münster)

A Hub in a Network of Dissent - Amsterdam’s Role in the Publication of Hiël’s Mystical Treatises around 1700

10:30 Coffee break

11:00 Viktoria Francke (Enschede)

The ‘Dutch Connection’ in Friedrich Breckling’s Catalogue of Witnesses of Truth (1700) and his ‘Autobiography’ (ca. 1704)

11:45 John Exalto (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Comenius’ Latin School in Amsterdam: Pansophia, Didactics, and Chiliasm


12.30  Lunch (provided for speakers on site)


Panel 4 (Chair: Andreas Pietsch, Universität Münster)


14:00 Mirjam van Veen 

The Divine Gift of the Van den Corput Sisters Reformed Woman in Search of a Home

14:45 Francesco Quatrini (University College Dublin, digital connection)

Unitarian Letters from Exile: The Polish Brethren between Betrayal, Liberty, and the Needs of a Banished Church (c.1658-1668)

15:30 Mike Driedger (Brock University, Canada, digital connection)

Digital Evidence of Amsterdam as a City of Refuge for Contributors to the Growing Book Industry during “the Golden Age”: The eCartico Website

16:15  Final Exchange and Dutch “Borrel”
         (tradition of snacking and drinking after work)


Learn more about the Ritman Research Institute here.