17th- and 18th-century Dutch letters from seized ships

+8 votes
From the University of Leiden: "more than a thousand 17th- and 18th-century Dutch letters from seized ships are now available on line.


The letters are a gold mine for researchers wanting to study the everyday language used by men and women during this period.  Marijke van der Wal, Leiden Professor of the History of Dutch and leader of the Letters as Loot research project, explains why the letters are so valuable. ‘What’s so special about them is that they contain the language used by ordinary people in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most documents that are preserved are historical texts written by educated people from the upper classes of society. Such texts were mainly written according to particular linguistic conventions. But the letters from these ships are different: they were sent by people from all kinds of classes and backgrounds. The letters are full of spellings, words and sentence structures that reflect the way the language was spoken at that time in everyday situations.’"
in The Tree House by Anonymous Rocca G2G6 Mach 5 (50.3k points)
Nice find, Santino!

The origin of these letters:

Approximately 40,000 Dutch letters from the second half of the 17th to the early 19th centuries have been gathering dust for centuries in British archives. They were sent home by sailors and others from abroad but also vice versa by those staying behind who needed to keep in touch with their loved ones. Many letters did not reach their destinations: they were taken as loot by privateers and confiscated by the High Court of Admiralty during the wars fought between The Netherlands and England.

1 Answer

+4 votes
I wonder if any of the descendants of the letter writers/recipients will be found?
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
I bet they will - lots of us came down from those Dutch folks that came over and I am sure that many were writing those back home of waiting to hear from those folks left behind

Well, only four letters from the USA are among the 1000 transcribed records. One of them, a 1664 letter from Hendrick Meese Vrooman to his mother, brother and sister back in Leiden, Netherlands, is already cited by Bea smiley in his profile.

That's amazing, I'd love to find one of my ancestor's letters in a cache somewhere!
plenty of Dutch settlements were not in what would become the USA

Yes Navarro, there were. Can be seen on the Atlas of Mutual Heritage, a database with information, maps, drawings, prints and paintings of locations related to the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) and the West-Indische Compagnie (WIC).

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