The First Newcomers: Immigrants to the Dutch Republic in the Age of Rembrandt

Was she an immigrant? Most servants in the Dutch Golden Age were. (Vermeer, The Milkmaid, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, ca 1660)
Was she an immigrant? Most servants in the Dutch Golden Age were. (Vermeer, The Milkmaid, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, ca 1660)

In the 17th century people were on the move as much as they are today. The Thirty Years War sent millions of Europeans fleeing, and religious persecution prompted many to search for a new home. The Dutch Republic, a relatively thriving and tolerant society, and especially Amsterdam in the wealthy province of Holland, were a magnet for many of these souls.  Amsterdam tripled in size during the first half of the century. The city needed workers, maids, builders, craftsmen, printers, scholars and sailors to fuel the growing economy and its burgeoning culture. The population became exceptionally diverse, and Rembrandt, who lived in the growing Jewish quarter, had a heyday finding just the right models for his Old Testament scenes among the exotic newcomers.

This award-winning program was produced and presented by Marijke van der Meer.

First broadcast April 25, 2007