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Mennonites and Violence in Early Modern Amsterdam

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Although Dutch Mennonites penned official positions against bearing the sword, little is known about how Mennonites negotiated the violence that permeated daily life in early modern Dutch society. This article examines Mennonite attitudes towards collective and interpersonal violence by studying the disciplinary practices of three Amsterdam congregations from 1612–1745. It contrasts the elders’ discipline of their elite members with their occasional forbearance towards poorer men and women. It argues that the leaders took a firmer position against those who signed up in the military than they did against members who committed violent interpersonal acts. Finally, it examines cases when Mennonites turned to the force of secular magistrates for justice. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the article concludes, Mennonite churches rarely punished violent offenses, suggesting that their members had internalized both the official position of the church and the broader rejection of violence by Dutch society.

Affiliations: 1: Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada


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