The cash book of the Netherlands
Guest post written by Dr. Corinne Boter:
Most research on the financial history of the Netherlands tells the story from above, looking at the development of formal institutions such as banks and insurance companies. That is why we know very little about how ‘normal’ people used to manage their finances. In the project Kasboekje van Nederland (Cash Book of the Netherlands), Utrecht University and the NTR (a Dutch broadcasting company) have joined forces to shed more light on this very important aspect of financial history by telling the story from below. How did twentieth-century Dutch households manage their finances? How did they deal with financial problems? What kind of institutions did they use? And how did all of this change in the course of the twentieth century? To successfully answer these questions, we are looking beyond the treasures that the normal archives have to offer by extending our search to the personal family archives that people have stored in their attics. After all, you cannot research the history of normal people without allowing their voices to be heard.
Our quest for financial documents started on the 8th of October when we organized a public event in the Academiegebouw in Utrecht. We asked people from all over the country to join us on this special day and to bring with them documents regarding the financial history of their family. In return, we organized lectures and guided tours, and there was a true treasury where old financial documents were on display. But it did not stop there. We also opened an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that people who were not able to make it on the 8th of October could contact us in case they had documents to share with us. They can send them to us both digitally and by mail, or they can stop by in Utrecht to discuss their archives with us in person.
Evidently, we managed to spark the enthusiasm of the Dutch people because the public event was well-attended (over 300 people showed up) and the interesting documents continue to pour in by mail. What are we going to give back to the people? First of all, the NTR will be in charge of making a television series of six episodes on the history of the relationship between the Dutch and their money. Each episode will start in the present and will then explore how we did things in the past. The series will air in March 2018. Second, we plan to write a newsletter through which we can keep the people updated about our findings. Finally, the team of researchers will publish interesting articles and give fascinating lectures on the financial history of Dutch households.
The next step in the project will be to photograph everything and to process all of the information. The sight of our chockfull archive cabinet is daunting. How are we ever going to manage? Luckily, the Huygens ING (the Institute for Dutch History) in Amsterdam is willing to help us out. Their expertise in digital humanities will help us tremendously in completing this laborious task.
The Kasboekje team is very excited about the project and is looking forward to getting started with the research!
For more information (in Dutch) see: https://www.hetkasboekjevannederland.nl/