Where can I find pictures of clothing of poor or common male European musicians between 1500 and 1700

Where can I find pictures of clothing of poor or common male European musicians between 1500 and 1700

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Can anyone provide pictures or credible descriptions of clothing as a modest musician anywhere in Europe might have worn between 1500 and 1700? I realise that my question spans 200 years and many countries. Feel free to restrict it if you need. I have searched a lot of paintings by myself, but I suspect they tend to depict musicians in extremely fancy clothing.

If you can show that the examples below are not of rich musicians or that the clothing of musicians didn't significantly differ from that of others, you are welcome to do so.

It seems easy to find examples of musicians painted by Dirk van Baburen 1622: Or van Baburen 1623:

Unfortunately, they are not full body pictures and seem to my untrained eye to depict rich people. If the latter assumption is wrong, I will be delighted to know! To me such feathers and hats certainly look expensive.

Caravaggio 1596 also shows cloth that looks rich and luxurious to me. I assume such pigment was expensive, but I am just guessing:

The only somewhat modest(?) picture that I could find was Dürer 1504:

For genuinely poor musicians, you probably need to look at street musicians. As the The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Music notes,

The relative wealth of musicians is hard to determine, partly because hard currency was not the most important economic measure in the period. Moreover the fortunes of individuals could fluctuate markedly… Some musicians died paupers. Others, however, left substantial estates…

This source goes on to give an idea of income compared to other occupations:

For London, Ian Spink has estimated that a rank-and-file court musician might expect to be paid the same as a better-off member of the clergy, a military officer, or someone in the liberal arts. Lesser musicians such as town waits were closer to shopkeepers or minor tradesmen in their income, while a street musician might be indistinguishable from a beggar.

Starting at the bottom end of the financial spectrum, the etching below by Jacques Bellange from Lorraine (c. 1575-1616) shows a beggar musician.

Source: Jacques Bellange - Hurdy-Gurdy Player - WGA01598.jpg">Jacques Callot (c. 1592 - 1635, also from Lorraine) is of a better dressed beggar musician (1622 or 1623):

Source: BnF Gallica

Street musicians were looked down upon and were sometimes prosecuted for vagrancy. London attracted large numbers of such vagrants, making the streets noisy places as musicians, ballad singers, street hawkers and others plied their trades, sometimes dishonestly (working with pickpockets) and sometimes prone to violence (many were armed). Scenes such as the one below (also by Jacques Bellange) wouldn't have helped their reputation.

"A hurdy-gurdy player clutches at the throat of his angry ragged opponent. an agitated dog, claws exposed and unleashed in the foreground." Source: Fine Arts Museum of San Franciso.

The Bagpiper, by Albrecht Dürer (1514). Source: The Met

The Musicians, by Lucas van Leyden (1524). Source: The Paupers and Peasants of the Renaissance

The colours of poor people's clothes tended to be more muted than they are today, with yellow, brown and blue being more common than most. These were by no means the only colours used, though. The article Colors for Lower-Class Elizabethan Clothing has more on this.

The Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger's (1564 - 1638) picture below shows a better dressed musician playing for the Egg Dance in a peasant village. The Egg Dance was

a traditional Easter game involving the laying down of eggs on the ground and dancing among them whilst trying to break as few as possible… the pastime is associated with peasant villages of the 16th and 17th century…

Circa. 1620. Source: Public Domain Review

Another picture, this by Dutch painter Jan Steen (circa. 1626 - 1679), also features the Egg Dance and shows two musicians (bottom right).

1670s. Source: Jan Steen - The Egg Dance, Peasants Merrymaking in an Inn WMR APH N070483.jpg">waits (bands of musicians in towns and cities) were salaried and often had clothing provided (so they may not qualify for your question). Among other responsibilities, they played at town feasts and fairs. More information and some pictures can be found on the Waits Website. It is also worth noting that, in Elizabethan England at least, fiddlers could earn well by playing at village feasts and fairs, but their fortunes could fluctuate and it was not uncommon for musicians to die as paupers.

Other sources:

Elizabethan Music

Traditional Music and Dances in the Time of Vermeer

Peter Brimacombe, Tudor England

Music in the Elizabethan era

Penry Williams, The Later Tudors 1547 - 1603

Until the time of Beethoven musicians had a low social status. They were basically servants. Like other servants, they were dressed up in fine livery while serving their masters. This is what you see in most of your pictures. When not serving they probably looked as in the Dürer picture. Or like this:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6a/Johann_Sebastian_Bach.jpg">ShareImprove this answeranswered Oct 25 '18 at 14:13fdbfdb8,6022 gold badges20 silver badges38 bronze badges

1940s Fashion: Clothing Styles & Trends

Fashion in the 1940s was a good mix of comfort and glamour. There were specific outfits that were meant for specific times of the day. Some of their designs look downright modern even by today’s standards.

Another thing women ALWAYS wore: gloves. Preferably a pair that matches your outfit. Fur was very popular, as were animal skins. Crocodile purses, wombat collars, lambskin lining, and leather sleeves — no animal was off limits.

Clothes in the 1940s were very bright and colorful. The brighter the better. Women’s shoes were often one of three popular color choices: red, white or blue.

What did people wear in the 1940s? Take a deeper look into 1940s fashion by looking at pictures and reading our yearly timeline below.

Share your love for 1940s Fashion: Clothing Styles & Trends

Popular Dance Bands

Prohibition of alcohol began in 1920, this lead to an underground market for much sought after drinks and the creation of places like speakeasies. Speakeasies started out small, but as the Roaring Twenties came into its prime, speakeasies followed and expanded into clubs that featured musicians and dancers. Speakeasies weren't the only places that offered a party during the Jazz Age, there were private clubs, dance clubs, jazz clubs, and roadhouses. All were places where people could gather, listen to new music, and try out the latest dance crazes together. Dancing was a large part of popular culture and music during this decade and there were a number of iconic dances to emerge from these scenes. Dancing represented the carefree and excessive leisurely lifestyles that many had and tried to emulate during one of the first huge boom periods of American History. Nearly every town in the country had some form of dance band and a place to gather, making dance music some of the most widely heard and accepted music to come out of the 1920s. Dance music laid the foundation for what would become classic pop standards. The "Charleston," the "Black Bottom," the "Shimmy," the "Foxtrot," and the "Lindy Hop" were some of the most popular dances of the time. Most dance music resembled what we would call Big Band today, but at the time it was considered Jazz and it had elements of the formerly popular Ragtime music. The most famous and recognizable dance from the twenties was the Charleston. The Charleston was introduced to the world in the 1923 Broadway show "Runnin' Wild." The was a song from the show called "The Charleston" and it was done in a style similar to Ragtime music. Ragtime music was popular up until the late 1910s and was a heavy influence on dance music of the early 1920s, while jazz heavily influenced dance music in the late 1920s. There were several bands and orchestras that had hits with dance music during the decade and many of them transitioned between different genres depending on what was the most popular at the time. Some examples of popular dance bands were Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, Ben Bernie and his Orchestra, and the Nat Shilkret Orchestra. Another aspect of dance music in the 1920s was the dance competitions and marathons that were held across the country. Radio stations, stores, and other commercial operations would hold competitions for prizes where couples would compete in seeing who could dance for the longest, with some people dancing for days. Other competitions would feature scores of girls seeing who could dance the best Charleston for the longest. The popularity of dance music also influenced the fashions of the decade with looser fitting clothing like "Flapper" style dresses for women, and more casual sportswear for men becoming widespread. While these types of clothing were not necessarily created with dancing in mind, their easy fit and styles made them ideal for the flamboyant and active dancing that dominated the decade.

Jazz music began in the early 1900s within the black community in New Orleans. It was a new type of music that combined European and African styles. It is a difficult style to define as it incorporates several different elements of several different styles, relies on a lot of improvisation and syncopated rhythms and is subjective in many ways. Jazz music reached the mainstream in the 1920s when Southern African American musicians began moving up to Chicago looking for work. The Twenties are often called the Jazz Age because the popularization of Jazz music had an enormous cultural effect. Jazz music was important because it influenced fashion, dances, accepted moral standards, youth culture, and race relations. Jazz music was one of the first types of music to be culturally appropriated by the American white middle class and Jazz scholars often separate the music into "Jazz" and "White Jazz," marking a difference in style and meaning between original African American jazz artists and popularized white jazz artists. Jazz music was popular on the newly booming radio networks and it was one of the ways that white musicians appropriated and popularized the music as many national stations refused to play records by black artists at the time. Two predominant black artists that had popularity and played in jazz bands were Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, one influential white jazz artist at the time was Bix Beiderbecke. Jazz gained popularity and spread through the country in clubs, speakeasies, and dance halls where Jazz bands would play their new music. Many of the clubs were segregated and would only allow white bands in white clubs and black bands in black clubs. Some popular African American bands playing in white clubs where black patrons were not allowed. There were very few integrated clubs around and they were called "Black and Tan" clubs. The most famous jazz musician of the decade and possibly of all time was Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was a popular African American jazz musician who played the trumpet and cornet and was known for his distinct and gravelly singing voice. Armstrong's talent helped him break down some of the racial barriers of the time as he played in several mixed race bands and was invited to play in white only clubs. Some of Armstrong's notable hits from the decade included "Heebie Jeebies" from 1926, "West End Blues" from 1928, and "Ain't Misbehavin'" from 1929. Another influential Jazz musician from the Jazz Age was Duke Ellington. Ellington was a jazz band leader and a pianist. He was an influential figure in the jazz community but he also did a lot for general popular music and dance music. He was also a popular figure who frequented whites only jazz clubs to perform. A couple of Duke Ellington's popular songs from the 1920s were "Creole Love Call" and "Black and Tan Fantasy" both recorded in 1927. A third influential jazz musician of the decade was a white cornetist and pianist named Bix Beiderbecke. Beiderbecke's style contrasted with Armstrong and he is thought to have had an equal influence on the early jazz scene like Armstrong. Many jazz authorities say that two distinct styles of jazz were formed from the 1920s, and the two styles can be traced to the original styles of either Louis Armstrong or Bix Beiderbecke. Armstrong was a highly trained musician and was considered a virtuoso, while Beiderbecke was self-taught and therefore had an unusual style. Jazz was the defining sound and style of the 1920s and has continued to be a popular art form that has a constantly changing musical landscape. Beiderbecke's famous recordings included 1924's "Riverboat Shuffle" and 1925's "Davenport Blues."

The Blues

The first popular blues music began appearing in the late 1900s and early 1910s. Blues music likely originated earlier than that in the African American communities in the Deep Southern states of the US. Blues music is characterized by repeating chords and 1920s blues focused on a twelve bar structure. Songs would often chronicle the singers personal troubles and the daily racial problems associated with being African American in the prejudiced and segregated South. Some blues songs were also witty and comical, a satirical take on a melancholy life. During the Twenties, blues was almost exclusively played by black musicians and was only popular within the black community. One of the most important blues singers of the decade was Mamie Smith. Mamie Smith is credited with making the first recorded blues vocal performance by an African American singer in 1920. The song was called "Crazy Blues" and it was hugely popular with an African American audience, helping to create a market for "race records," recordings that were specifically marketed to a black audience. Another important blues singer from the 1920s was the "Mother of Blues," Ma Rainey. She was also one of the first professional blues recording artists and was known for having a powerful voice. Rainey was suspected by many to be bisexual or lesbian and is thought of as one of the first influential voices in the LGBTQ community as many of her songs openly referenced lesbianism. Some famous Ma Rainey songs include 1924's "See See Rider," 1927's "Black Bottom," and 1928's "Prove It on Me." While Ma Rainey was the "Mother of Blues" another artist, Bessie Smith, was considered the "Empress of Blues" in the 1920s. Bessie Smith was one of the highest paid African American performers of the decade and had several blues hits during the twenties, including "Downhearted Blues" and "T'ain't Nobody's Biz-Ness If I Do" from 1923 and "I Ain't Got Nobody" from 1926. She was known for her incredibly strong vocals. A final important figure in 1920s blues music was Blind Lemon Jefferson, a singer and guitarist who had a distinctive style that made him a hugely successful recording artist in the early days of the music industry. He was one of the first solo voice and guitar artists to find success in the recording industry and was thought of as an innovator. Blind Lemon Jefferson's most famous songs included "Matchbox Blues," "See That My Grave is Kept Clean," and "Black Snake Moan." Blues has remained popular since the 1920s and has changed and evolved with its own trends over time.


The film industry was somewhat established by the 1920s and silent films were the only types of movies around to dominate the big screen. By 1923, synchronized sound in films was making great strides in the development of the technology and the first short films with synchronized sound were being created. By the mid to late 1920s the first full-length talking movies ("talkies"), were being created and commercialized. With the advent of talking movies, the next natural step would be musicals. Prior to the creation of talking films, musicals were often originated in the theatrical Broadway area of New York City. Broadway became a place where talented performers, composers, writers, and musicians gathered to create new art together. It came into its own during the 1920s and was a place where creativity and decadence thrived. Composers like George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin flourished in their creation of musical theater. Many of these composers works were then turned into the first musical films, where they found whole new audiences across the country. Broadway music found a home in the new synchronized sound films and America was introduced to a new and modern musical theater, a blend of classical and innovative musical styles, juxtaposed with exciting stories that reflected the current era. Some examples of Broadway shows turned into musical films during the 1920s were "Sally" (1920 stage musical to 1929 film), "Rio Rita" (1927 stage musical to 1929 film), "Show Boat" (1927 stage musical to 1929 film), "Sunny" and "No, No, Nanette" (both 1925 stage musicals turned into 1930 films). When musical films were not directly taken from stage musicals, they often used Broadway as a subject and back drop, taking place in the world of the stage. Some examples of these musicals include, "The Jazz Singer" (1928), "The Broadway Melody" (1929), "Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929), and "Broadway" (1929). Broadway music in the 1920s was heavily influenced by Jazz. Popular Broadway performers began making their way to the film and music recording industries where their signature performances could be chronicled and distributed to the masses through movies and records. Famous stars to emerge from the Broadway scene included Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, and Ethel Waters. Many of the early Broadway composers were rooted in classical music, but the spirit of the decade begged for innovation and encouraged composers like George Gershwin to mix the modern with the old. Gershwin's masterpiece "Rhapsody in Blue," introduced in 1924, perfectly melded classical with new jazz and it emerged the most iconic and representative song of the 1920s.

Popular Songs from the 1920's

1920 - Dardanella - Ben Selvin, (-) Crazy Blues - Mamie Smith, (-) Whispering - Paul Whiteman, (-) Love Nest - John Steel, (-) Swanee - Al Jolson,

1921 - Margie - Eddie Cantor, (-) Look for the Silver Lining - Marion Harris, (-) The Wabash Blues - Isham Jones, (-) All by Myself - Ted Lewis, (-) Wang Wang Blues - Paul Whiteman,

1922 - April Showers - Al Jolson (-) My Buddy - Henry Burr (-) Hot Lips - Paul Whiteman (-) On the Alamo - Isham Jones (-) Toot, Toot, Tootsie - Al Jolson (-)

1923 - Love Her by Radio - Billy Jones (-) Georgia Blues - Ethel Waters (-) Felix the Cat - Paul Whiteman (-) That Old Gang of Mine - Billy Murray (-) Dreamy Melody - Art Landry (-)

1924 - The Prisoner’s Song - Vernon Dalhart (-) It Had to Be You- Isham Jones (-) King Porter Stomp - Jelly Roll Morton (-) Jealous - Marion Harris (-) Rhapsody in Blue - George Gershwin (-)

1925 - Dinah - Ethel Waters (-) St. Louis Blues - Bessie Smith (-) Sweet Georgia Brown - Ben Bernie (-) Remember - Isham Jones (-) Yes Sir (-) That’s My Baby - Ace Brigode (-)

1926 - Bye Bye Blackbird - Gene Austin (-) Some of These Days - Sophie Tucker (-) Rio Rita - Nat Shilkret (-) Always - Vincent Lopez (-) Heebie Jeebies - Louis Armstrong (-)

1927 - I’m Coming, Virginia - Bix Beiderbecke (-) Stardust - Hoagy Carmichael (-) Lucky Lindy - Nat Shilkret (-) Shaking the Blues Away - Ruth Etting (-) Black & Tan Fantasy - Duke Ellington (-)

1928 - My Man - Fanny Brice (-) I Wanna Be Loved By You - Helen Kane (-) Makin’ Whoopee - Eddie Cantor (-) The Man I Love - Marion Harris (-) Ol’ Man River - Paul Robeson (-)

1929 -When You’re Smiling - Louis Armstrong (-) Tip Toe Thru’ The Tulips - Nick Lucas (-) Maybe, Who Knows? - Kate Smith (-) Dream Lover - Jeanette MacDonald (-) Ain’t Misbehavin’ - Fats Waller"

Dance and music

The performing arts also have a long and distinguished tradition. Bharata natyam, the classical dance form originating in southern India, expresses Hindu religious themes that date at least to the 4th century ce (see Natya-shastra). Other regional styles include odissi (from Orissa), manipuri (Manipur), kathakali (Kerala), kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh), and kathak (Islamicized northern India). In addition, there are numerous regional folk dance traditions. One of these is bhangra, a Punjabi dance form that, along with its musical accompaniment, has achieved growing national and international popularity since the 1970s. Indian dance was popularized in the West by dancer and choreographer Uday Shankar.

Traditional Indian music is divided between the Hindustani (northern) and Carnatic (southern) schools. (The Hindustani style is influenced by musical traditions of the Persian-speaking world.) Instrumental and vocal music is also quite varied and frequently is played or sung in concert (usually by small ensembles). It is a popular mode of religious expression, as well as an essential accompaniment to many social festivities, including dances and the narration of bardic and other folk narratives. Some virtuosos, most notably Ravi Shankar (composer and sitar player) and Ali Akbar Khan (composer and sarod player), have gained world renown. The most popular dramatic classical performances, which are sometimes choreographed, relate to the great Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Regional variations of classical and folk music abound. All of these genres have remained popular—as has devotional Hindu music—but interest in Indian popular music has grown rapidly since the late 20th century, buoyed by the great success of motion picture musicals. Western classical music is represented by such institutions as the Symphony Orchestra of India, based in Mumbai, and some individuals (notably conductor Zubin Mehta) have achieved international renown.

Fashion in 1932

Marlene Dietrich with tilted beret

With the growing vogue in slinky silks popularized via Hollywood, undergarments change dramatically in 1932. Though still embroidered and generally in one piece, there is a notable absence of seams, since they show through tight fitting clothing.

Women turn to corsets in stunning fashion and a new interest emerges in the “uplift,” provided by darts and hidden circular stitching. Artificial silks and zippers make clothing less expensive, which is very important in an American society that had a 24% unemployment rate.

A blue and white plaid rayon dress with sashed belt and bow collar, with flowers, ribbons and quills in the hair is the style of the summer. Fashionable hats range from the pillbox, toque, trimmed turban and Basque beret (worn on the side like Marlene Dietrich). Chanel’s cotton evening dress was a big hit in 1932.

For the first time, ties made of wool, not silk, are the fab choice for the stylish businessman.


Mi’kmaq (Mi’kmaw, Micmac or L’nu, “the people” in Mi’kmaq) are Indigenous peoples who are among the original inhabitants in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Alternative names for the Mi’kmaq appear in some historical sources and include Gaspesians, Souriquois and Tarrantines. Contemporary Mi’kmaq communities are located predominantly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but with a significant presence in Quebec, Newfoundland, Maine and the Boston area. As of 2015, there were slightly fewer than 60,000 registered members of Mi’kmaq nations in Canada.

Traditional Territory

Mi’kmaq are among the original inhabitants of the Atlantic region in Canada, and inhabited the coastal areas of Gaspé and the Maritime Provinces east of the Saint John River. This traditional territory is known as Mi’gma’gi (Mi’kma’ki) and is made up of seven districts: Unama’gi (Unama’kik), Esge’gewa’gi (Eskikewa’kik), Sugapune’gati (Sipekni’katik), Epegwitg aq Pigtug (Epekwitk aq Piktuk), Gespugwi’tg (Kespukwitk), Signigtewa’gi (Siknikt) and Gespe’gewa’gi (Kespek). Mi’kmaq people have occupied their traditional territory, Mi’gma’gi, since time immemorial. Mi’kmaq continue to occupy this area as well as settlements in Newfoundland and New England, especially Boston. Oral history and archeological evidence place the Mi’kmaq in Mi’gma’gi for more than 10,000 years. (See also Indigenous Territory).

Traditional Life

View of a Mi'kmaq wigwam, a man, and a child, probably Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, photographed 1860. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Photo NO. 47728. Mi'kmaq military great coat, back view (courtesy Glenbow Museum/Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia). This painting circa 1850 (oil on canvas, 45.7 x 61.0 cm) was by an unknown artist who showed a mixture of knowledge and naivety (courtesy NGC).

In the pre-contact world of Mi’gma’gi, oral and archeological history tells of seasonally patterned habitation and resource harvesting — spring and summer spent on the coast, fall and winter inland. The people of Mi’gma’gi relied on the variety of resources available, using everything from shellfish to sea mammals to land mammals small and large for nutrition, clothing, dwellings and tools. They also used the bountiful timber of the region to construct canoes, snowshoes and shelters, usually in combination with animal skins and sinews. The Mi’kmaq relied wholly on their surroundings for survival, and thus developed strong reverence for the environment that sustained them.


As of 2015, the number of people registered with Mi’kmaq First Nations was 58,763. Of that total, 23,997 were members of the Qalipu First Nation of Newfoundland, a landless community officially recognized by the Government of Canada in 2011. Excluding the landless Qalipu, 56 per cent of Mi’kmaq people lived on reserves in 2015. Mi’gma’gi is home to 30 Mi’kmaq nations, 29 of which are located in Canada — the Aroostook Micmac Band of Presque Isle, Maine, has more than 1,200 members. All but two communities (the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation and La Nation Micmac de Gespeg in Fontenelle, Québec) possess reserve lands. Many Mi’kmaq people live off-reserve, either in Mi’gma’gi or elsewhere. More still may not be included by registered population counts, as they are not recognized as status Indians under theIndian Act.

Social and Political Organization

Historically, Mi’kmaq settlements were characterized by individual or joint households scattered about a bay or along a river. Communities were related by alliance and kinship. Leadership, based on prestige rather than power, was largely concerned with effective management of the fishing and hunting economy.

Mi’kmaq share close ties with other local peoples, including the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy. With the Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki peoples, the Mi’kmaq make up the Wabanaki Confederacy, a confederation of nations politically active at least from contact with Europeans to the present.

A Mi'kmaq Chief waits to be presented to their Majesties during the 1939 Royal Tour of Canada at Halifax, NS (courtesy Canada Science and Technology Museum/CN Collection/CN003696).

The Mi’kmaq Grand Council (Sante’ Mawio’mi) is the traditional government of the Mi’kmaq peoples, established before the arrival of Europeans. The council survives to this day, although its political powers have been restricted by federal legislation, such as the Indian Act. In the 1600s and 1700s, the council discussed political issues and entered into treaties with the British. The Council was also (and still is) considered the spiritual authority of the Mi’kmaq people. Today, the Mi’kmaq Grand Council members advocate for the promotion and preservation of Mi’kmaq people, language and culture.

Representatives from across Mi’kmaq territory sit on the council. In the past, the Grand Chief (Kji Sagamaw or Kji Saqmaw) was the head of state for the collective Mi’kmaq political body, which consisted of captains (keptins or kji’keptan), who led the council, wampum readers (putu’s or putus), who maintained treaty and traditional laws, and soldiers (smagn’is), who protected the people. Today, the chief, captains and wampum readers still run the council, though their roles have been curtailed by the federal government to focus primarily on Mi’kmaq spirituality and culture. Other organizations, like the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative (Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn), advocate politically for the recognition and implementation of treaty rights. (See also Indigenous Peoples: Treaties).


Mi'kmaq quillwork chair seat (courtesy Glenbow Museum/Canadian Ethnology Service, CMC). Mi'kmaq moccasins, circa 1830.

Like other Indigenous peoples in the Eastern Woodlands region, Mi’kmaq practised art intrinsically linked to the natural world. Contemporary Mi’kmaq artists like Alan Syliboy have reinterpreted Mi’kmaq artistic traditions, like rock painting and ornate quillwork clothing. (See also Indigenous Art in Canada).

Music is another important element of Mi’kmaq culture. Many traditional songs and chants are still sung during spiritual rituals, feasts, mawiomi (gatherings), cultural ceremonies and powwows. In some cases, Mi’kmaq chants consisted of vocables (spoken syllables) as a means of expressing emotion, rather than words with meanings.

Did You Know?
In April 2019, a video of Cape Breton Mi’kmaq teenager Emma Stevens singing “Blackbird” in Mi’kmaq went viral. The cover of the Beatles’ classic was produced by Emma’s teacher Carter Chiasson, translated by teacher Katani Julian and her father, Albert “Golydada” Julian, and recorded by Emma and fellow students at Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni First Nation, Cape Breton. They translated the song into Mi’kmaq to bring awareness to the consequences of the endangerment of Indigenous languages during the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, 2019. The video took off around the world, receiving high praise from public figures, including the original songwriter, Sir Paul McCartney, as well as a tweet from the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.


Mi’kmaq is among the Wabanaki cluster of Eastern Algonquian languages, which include the various Abenaki dialects, and the Penobscot and Maliseet-Passamaquoddy languages. According to the 2016 Census, 8,870 people are listed as speaking Mi’kmaq. (See also Indigenous Languages in Canada).

Mi’kmaq is written alphabetically. It has single- and double-letter constants as well as five vowels that make both long and short sounds. Mi’kmaq has a history of pictographs being used, but this writing system was modified by missionaries learning the language to teach Catholicism in the 1600s. Mi’kmaq had as many as 17 different dialects, including the unique Québec dialect Restigouche, but linguistic contact with French and English speakers has eroded the prevalence of the language and smoothed dialectical differences.

Despite challenges, language programs, including high school immersion programs, have helped to revitalize the language. In 1970, there were approximately 6,000 Mi’kmaq speakers, compared to the nearly 9,000 reported in 2016. However, these numbers may be misleading. While the National Household Survey asks speakers to self-report “an understanding” of a language, linguists measure health of a language by the number of fluent speakers. In 1999, a report by the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Language Centre of Excellence indicated fewer than 3,000 fluent speakers.

Nevertheless, Mi’kmaq is the only Indigenous language in significant active use in Mi’gma’gi (Maliseet had less than 800 speakers in 2011), and as such, is an important symbol of cultural strength and perseverance for the community.

Religion and Spirituality

Mi’kmaq spirituality is influenced by and closely connected to the natural world. The Mi’kmaq believe that living a good, balanced life means respecting and protecting the environment and living in harmony with the people and creatures that live on the earth. Analysis of the Mi’kmaq language enhances the fundamental importance of this worldview. Rather than a sequential, time-based verb tense structure (as in English), the Mi’kmaq language is experiential, relying on the evidence of the speaker to convey meaning.

Mi’kmaq culture and traditional religion is based on legendary figures like Glooscap (also written Kluscap) who is said to have formed the Annapolis Valley by sleeping on the land and using Prince Edward Island as his pillow. The Great Spirit is the creator of the world and all its inhabitants, a concept that was not destroyed when Catholic settlers and missionaries began to influence Mi’kmaq spirituality and religion in the 17th century. (See also Indigenous People: Religion and Spirituality).

Origin Stories

The Mi’kmaq, like most Indigenous groups, use stories to tell about the past and about their spirituality. Mi’kmaq oral tradition explains that the world was created in seven stages. The Creator made the sky, the sun, Mother Earth and then the first humans: Glooscap and his grandmother, nephew and mother. From sparks of fire that Glooscap commanded to come forth, came seven men and seven women — the founding families of the seven Mi’gma’gi districts. There are many other origin stories that describe how things came to be and how to live a good life.


In 1610, Henri Membertou, a Mi’kmaq chief (sagamo or sagamore), became the first Indigenous person to be baptized as a Catholic in New France, beginning a pattern of intense conversion and intermingling of customs. Mi’kmaq peoples, who had readily adapted to European trade goods, were likewise receptive to religious practices.

The Concordat of 1610 — a formal agreement between the Mi’kmaq and the Vatican marked by the creation of a treaty wampum — combined trade, treaty and religion in relations between the Mi’kmaq and the French. The Concordat made the Mi’kmaq Catholic subjects, and therefore legitimized trade and other relations between settlers and Indigenous peoples in Acadia or Mi’gma’gi. Mi’kmaq people continued to practise their own customs but incorporated the teachings of priests who had learned the Mi’kmaq language, entrenching Catholicism into Mi’kmaq spiritual identity.

Mi’kmaq religion remains firmly based in Catholicism. In the early 1990s, Mi’kmaq peoples from across Mi’gma’gi began celebrating Treaty Day (1 October) by incorporating traditional Mi’kmaq customs like drumming and the burning of sacred herbs into Catholic Mass. However, traditional Mi’kmaq spirituality is still practised today, with a concerted effort on the part of Mi’kmaq people to protect and promote their religious beliefs and customs.

Chapel of the Mi'kmaq on the Conne River, Newfoundland and Labrador (1908).

Colonial History

Due to their proximity to the Atlantic, the Mi’kmaq were among the first peoples in North America to interact with European explorers, fishermen and traders. As a result, they quickly suffered depopulation and socio-cultural disruption. Some historians estimate that European diseases (See Epidemic) resulted in a loss of up to half the Mi’kmaq population from about 1500 to 1600.

As a result of sporadic contact and trade with European fishermen, the Mi’kmaq who encountered the first sustained European settlements in what is now Canada were familiar with the people, their goods and their trade habits. Additionally, Mi’kmaq oral history tells of a Mi’kmaq woman’s ancient premonition that people would arrive in Mi’gma’gi on floating islands, and a legendary spirit who travelled across the ocean to find “blue-eyed people.” The foretelling of the arrival of Europeans meant Mi’kmaq were prepared when they first encountered fishermen off their shores.

Mi’kmaq participated in the fur trade by serving as intermediaries between Europeans and groups farther west, as fur-bearing animals quickly became scarce in the face of high demand. This fundamentally altered the lifestyle of the Mi’kmaq, who focused on trapping and trading furs rather than subsistence hunting and gathering.

Prolonged conflict between French and British colonial powers often pulled Mi’kmaq into the fray. The Mi’kmaq were largely allied with French colonial forces, which had established settlements across Acadia until the 18th century. During that time, and after conflicts with Britain, the Mi’kmaq signed treaties in 1726, 1749, 1752 and 1760–61, followed by two treaties to secure alliances during the American Revolution. These were known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties. The 1726 treaty was the foundation for the subsequent treaties. (See also Indigenous Peoples: Treaties).

These treaties between sovereign nations recognize the inherent Indigenous rights of the Mi’kmaq, and form the basis for modern treaty claims and renegotiations. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, though it established Indigenous rights in much of Canada, did not mention Maritime colonies. For this reason, most post-treaty European and Loyalist settlers ignored, or were ignorant of, Mi’kmaq rights.

In 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the Mi’kmaq and the Crown have a historic relation stemming from the treaties of the 1700s, and that the Mi’kmaq have Indigenous rights to the lands described in those treaties. Ever since 1 October 1986, Treaty Day in Nova Scotia and some other parts of Atlantic Canada has commemorated the signing and significance of the Peace and Friendship Treaties.

19th and 20th Century Struggles

Life under British, and later Canadian, governance was not kind to the Mi’kmaq, who were subjected to conscious attempts to alter their lifestyle. Most moves to establish them as agriculturalists failed because of badly conceived programs and encroachments upon reserve lands. Economic patterns that privileged employment as labourers effected irreversible change: crafts, coopering, the porpoise fishery, and road, rail and lumber work integrated the Mi’kmaq into the 19th- and 20th-century economy, but left them socially isolated.

As with many Indigenous peoples in Canada, the Mi’kmaq are strongly affected by the lasting trauma of residential schools. Adding to this cultural, generational and economic dislocation, in the 1940s, the Department of Indian Affairs forced more than 2,000 Mi’kmaq people living in numerous small communities to relocate to government-designated reserves. The moves, undertaken for the sole purpose of streamlining government administration were fraught with mismanagement and experimental tactics, and had disastrous effects on the communities. Homes, churches and industries were abandoned and replaced with poor conditions and economic dependency.

Did You Know?

Despite facing discrimination in Canada and a lack of civil rights (Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous peoples were not granted the right to vote until 1960), more than 200 Mi’kmaq warrior-soldiers ( sma’knisk) served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in the First World War. Many were wounded or killed in battle (see Indigenous Peoples and the First World War). In addition, Mi’kmaq soldier Corporal Samuel Glode (Gloade) was highly decorated for bravery on the Western Front. Glode was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for disarming 450 land mines and bombs in 1918, saving many Canadian lives.

Contemporary Life and Activism

In 2015, there were 13 Mi’kmaq nations in Nova Scotia with a total registered population of 16,268. New Brunswick’s nine nations included 8,210 registered people, while the two nations in each of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador had populations of 1,294 and 26,966, respectively. The three Québec nations had a total population of 6,025. Before 2011, the population of registered Mi’kmaq people in Newfoundland and Labrador was significantly lower in that year, the federal government recognized the status of more than 23,000 Mi’kmaq people, who formed the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.

The formation of the Qalipu is one example of continued activism among Mi’kmaq people. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the rights of Donald Marshall, Jr., and thus all Mi’kmaq peoples, to a “moderate livelihood” through hunting and fishing rights. Marshall had been convicted in 1996 of fishing out of season, but the court ruled that the Peace and Friendship Treaties, signed in 1760 and 1761, guaranteed Mi’kmaq these rights.

The decision sparked what is known as the Burnt Church Crisis, where tensions reached a boiling point between Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous fishermen, who argued that unchecked harvesting in the lobster fishery would lead to devastation of stocks. Despite the pacifist lobbying of organizations like the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association among their own members, some non-Indigenous fishermen destroyed Mi’kmaq traps and other equipment. The situation threatened to devolve into violence. The federal government brought the crisis to somewhat of a close by buying licences and equipment from some non-Indigenous fishermen and entering into agreements with several Mi’kmaq communities to regulate a commercial fishery. Other Mi’kmaq communities did not reach agreements and continue to petition the federal government to recognize treaty rights.

Ongoing tensions over lobster fishing between non-Indigenous and Sipekne’katik (Mi’kmaq) fishers escalated in October 2020. A lobster pound was burned down in Middle West Pubnico the night of 17 October. The Mi’kmaq have called on the federal government, which is responsible for fisheries, to provide clear guidance on what a “moderate livelihood” involves.

In October 2013, members of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick organized a demonstration against natural gas fracking being conducted on Crown land near their community. The protests centred on environmental arguments against fracking and the unceded nature of the territory in question. Protesters erected blockades on Highway 11 and several organizers were arrested. Non-violent protesters faced off against RCMP officers, producing iconic images and reigniting debate over the scope of Aboriginal title and the politics of environmental stewardship within an industrial economy.

Where can I find pictures of clothing of poor or common male European musicians between 1500 and 1700 - History

Women were seen as nothing more than mere objects. They were to be controlled in the age of enlightenment. Men took the role of the puppeteer and women took the role of the puppets. The role of women was determined around the time philosophers and scientists, all males, were controlling society. For a long time up until the 1960’s, women were seen as the “second sex”, and deemed second in importance, biologically. The preconceived theory is that women’s role is simply reproductive by nature. Nature’s “supposed” law of men above women changed in society by the time feminists evolved.

The idea that there is a hierarchy of genders based on the men and women’s natural differences, was very popular during the enlightenment. Women’s difference in body parts and personality traits were seen as negative and placed them below men in this way. They were kept behind the limelight, and in private salons. The women who decided that their education and intelligence overpowered the fact that they were women, still were oppressed. They also tried to participate in ‘under the radar’ debating societies. No matter how much they wanted to improve their lives through education and self-empowerment, men during this time always wanted to find a way to downgrade the women. Because the idea of women as objects was an idea as old as time, and that’s all men really knew about, it was hard for women to escape these traditional gender roles.

Feminism has now developed in such a way that women can use their experience and knowledge to join in on unions and political networks. Unlike in the 18 th century, when women were accustomed to hiding their sometimes brash opinions and thoughts, women can for the most part be respected enough to say and think what they feel. History has taught us that the way to respect isn’t through a quick fix, but instead a long and complex set of revolutions and evolution. The women of the 18 th century were an important stepping stone in allowing women to evolve to how they are today.

Changed since the Renaissance

Women were not able to start a revolution or movement during the time of the Renaissance. However, during the age of enlightenment, women started to demand to have the same educational opportunities as men and wanting to participate in higher societies. The legal status of women was left undetermined and men saw them as silly and subordinate.

A History of Women's Political Thought in Europe, 1400-1700 by Jacqueline Broad and Karen GreenPower, Piety and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship: Maria de Luna by Nuria Silleras-FernandezEleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England by Ralph V. Turner


Prostitution comes from Latin and means: Placing in front (pro is upfront and otatuere means placement).

Prostitution in Amsterdam in the year 1905.

Is Prostitution The Oldest Profession in History?

Dr. Kate Lister – sex work historian: ‘It was actually the Victorian writer, Rudyard Kipling, who first coined the phrase ‘the world’s oldest profession’ in his short story, On the City Wall (1898). The tale opens with the immortal line “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world”. Since then, the expression has fallen into common parlance as a historical truth.

Amsterdam, Red Light District, 1968. A window prostitute. Photographer: Cor Jaring.

But, sex work is not the oldest profession in the world anthropologists have found no evidence of selling sex within numerous (so called) primitive societies. The northern hill tribes of Thailand had no word for prostitution, and Victorian explorers were surprised to discover that the Dyak people of Borneo had ‘no word to express that vice’, and when Christian missionary, Lorrin Andrews, translated the bible into Hawaiian in 1865, he had to invent new words to teach the islanders about the concept of sexual shame, and infidelity. But, wherever you find money, you also find sex work.’

10 Synonyms For Prostitute

✦ Hooker
✦ Nightwalker
✦ Courtesan
✦ Femme fatale
✦ Painted lady
✦ Jilt
✦ Whore
✦ Harlot
✦ Escort
✦ Sex worker

What is a whore?

Amsterdam, Red Light District, 1968. A window worker receives a customer. Photographer: Cor Jaring.

‘Whore‘ is an old Indo-European word, related to the Old Indian word Kama (like in Kamasutra) meaning lust. Historically, levied at any women who stepped outside the norms of modest behaviour that upset the status quo. Whore originally derives from the Germanic ‘horon’ meaning “one that desires’. (Source: Dr. Kate Lister – sex work historian)

In old Norwegian the word is ‘hora’ (adulteress woman). In Dutch it’s called: “hoer” and is almost pronounced the same way as the English word ‘whore’.

Harlotry (in Dutch “hoererij”) was the general term for both paid and unpaid sex outside of marriage. The honour of a women was set by her sexual behaviour. Whores were considered to be honourless women. The word prostitute only became generally accepted in the Netherlands in the 19 th century.

The Brunswick Monogrammist, brothel in 1550. In the back a woman and a man “go upstairs”.

The Whore of Babylon

Being a whore is one of the oldest professions on earth. The Holy Bible mentions a woman, called the Whore of Babylon. That stood for sinful behaviour. It meant that the Roman Empire –according to the writers of the Bible- was no more than a bunch of unholy people, with their multitude of Gods and their wrongful morals.

Lucas van Leyden Sodom destroyed by God, 1509.

The Bible says Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed by God, because of the sinful behaviour of their citizens. Sodomy [love between men], whores, brothels and drunkenness formed the basis of the decay in these two Biblical places. Having sex was only destined for married couples.

Lilith according to painter John Collier (oil on canvas, 1892).

The History Of Prostitution 3000 years before Christ

But even before the Bible, a woman called Lilith was mentioned in clay tablets. The demon Lilith, emerged for the first time circa 3000 BC in the ancient city of Uruk, in what is now called Iraq. She was a high priestess of the Inanna-temple and was sent by the Goddess “to get men from the streets.”

Lilith was one of the Nu-giggs, the pure or spotless, who were worshipped as holy women. The rituals Lilith took part in were later considered prostitution-rituals.

First legalisation of prostitution

Solon – the great Athenian legislator – was the first to legalise prostitution. He legalised prostitution in the year 594 before Christ, Solon implemented state measures. Firstly to protect marriage and to prevent adultery. Secondly to unlimited satisfaction of all extramarital sexual desire.

How did people react to prostitution?

A prostitute is always a source of many different reactions. Jealousy is certainly one. And many a spouse was relieved to see her man go to the Red Light District, as she refused to have sex with him. That also was the reason for the Catholic Church to condone prostitution. 70% of all clients of prostitutes are married, recent studies show.

Prostitutes always made good money and so did those around them, like a pimp, the inn, etc., as is apparent from all the inns in paintings, where leisure, beer, kissing and making- out is depicted in a straight forward way. Victorian times hadn’t arrived yet and there was little or no structure to every day life.
In present days, Lilith lives as much as back then. More and more women free their untameable Lilith energy- their free, dark, sexual, tempting and creative powers.

Jan Steen, Wine is mocker, 1669. Woman having too much to drink in front of an inn.

City administrations have more than once tried to regulate prostitution, this gave the police an opportunity to close one eye and receive payments for doing so. Only the women who did serious crimes, besides prostitution, such as manslaughter, murder or repeated battering, were punished.

Learn more about the history of prostitution, Dutch culture and the Netherlands. Join our informative tours in Amsterdam with licensed guides.

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Punishments

City Justice made use of City Regulations – such as one from the year 1413 in Amsterdam – which held that a prostitue, performing her trade outside the allowed place and after having received two warnings, would be buried alive. [Source: Book Of Regulations A folium 4, 1413]. Indeed, several women have actually been buried this way, as becomes apparent from old books of Justice of the city. It’s The Dark Ages, you know? The poor women.

A woman could also lose her ear if she slept with anyone else but her spouse, or with a man in the church or at the cemetery!
This actually happened to a woman known as Neeltje Pieters, who returned despite her legally being banned from Amsterdam and did wrong things on her arrival back home. As a punishment, she lost her ear at 12 November 1650 [Source: Justice book of the year 1650, folio 21].

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Brothels, stoves and inns

Year 1377 – 1477

In Burgundian times which ran from the year 1377 to the year 1477, Burgundian Duke Philip of Burgundy re-introduced an old Roman tradition in his countries which included The Netherlands back then: Stoves or Bath houses. They were called stoves because they were heated. A stove was basically an Inn. The present day German word Stube [bar] still refers to that heating aspect of such an Inn.

But Anthony of Burgundy went a step further introducing the Stove as a brothel and an Inn combined. And the upper class liked the Stove, too. Anthony was the son of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, who was known for his adultery and fornication.

A bath house-brothel in 1470 with the King on the background.

This aquarel depicts a man in courtly garb and a king looking through a window in the year 1470, observing debauchery in the baths. Nude men and women bathe and eat together, while two couples in the baths and a couple in an adjacent room kiss and fondle. The prostitutes wear elaborate veils and jeweled necklaces. The painter, the Master of Anthony of Burgundy chose to place the scene of luxury in a contemporary Flemish bath house or brothel.

Brothels with adjacent bath houses and public bath houses that also offered illicit prostitution were common in the late Middle Ages in France, the Low Countries, and Germany. Although prostitution was illegal in public bath houses, proprietors often overlooked the law. Bath house-brothels earned a reputation for vice and licentiousness. Gambling, theft, and drunkenness all appear as complaints in legal documents.

A whore painted by the Dutch female master painter Judith Leyster. Circa 1650.

The owner of a Stove could be fined 3 Pounds, the City regulation stipulated. Young Gentry men had an initiation ritual: they took a freshman student to a Stove, where it was common for this young man, aged 16 or 17, to receive a gift: life-long Syphilis.

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Prostitutes and STD’s

Year 1478 – 1564

At a certain point the connection was discovered between prostitutes and venereal diseases (STD’s) and the City made policies to prevent or diminish it.
Already in a City Regulation of the year 1478 “Rendez-Vous Houses” or “Meeting Houses” were mentioned. Places where women drank with men, “to be merry and to do other things as they liked”, as a source describes it.

On September 18th, 1564 a woman by the name of Mary Simonsdochter (Mary Simons daughter) was put in the “kaak” (see picture below) as a public punishment and humiliation and she was afterword’s brought by the police to a brothel in the Pieter Jacob Alley, all because Mary was a prostitute and “was seen engaged with a certain married man person.” And “notwithstanding her having received several warnings on the part of the government of the City of Amsterdam.”

Being posted on the “Kaak”. A forgotten form of punishment.

Displayed here is an advert for Van Rossums tobacco, with a punished man at the “Kaak”. Mostly the perpetrator was attached to this torture instrument for 3 hours, not longer. Passersby were allowed to throw rotten eggs or tomatoes at the villain, but in this picture a friendly inhabitant makes the crook enjoy his pipe!

At the end of the 16th century brothels were abolished in Amsterdam. Nevertheless prostitution increased.

A new form of brothel in Amsterdam: The Play House

Year 1668 – 1809

In 1668 the City of Amsterdam decided to install street lighting. By 1670 there were already 1800 lampposts in the city that ran on oil lighting. The purpose of the new lighting was the increase the safety in the city. An unexpected side effect was that it led to a boom in nightlife and with it prostitution. The Growth of so called playhouses coincided with the introduction of street lanterns.

In 1681 a booklet was published called: Le Putanisme d’Amsterdam, that described the Playhouse or Music House, that had arrived as a new form of brothel. “The building shows no windows whatsoever and is only indicated by the lantern at the outside. A hall leads to a large room, where a man plays the spinet [old piano giving a tinkling sound] and where a lot of people are together. High on the ceiling of this room hangs an enormous copper chandelier, like one sees in churches. Also a man plays a violin. Young women wait until they are invited by a man to have a drink and sit together. They are wonderfully dressed and their hair is beautifully done. A chansonnier sings all kinds of songs and the women perform solo dances, of which the Kurat is the most popular.

Book cover of “ Le Putanisme d’Amsterdam”.

Amsterdam, Warmoesstraat, 1808. Playhouse De Pijl.

This etching from 1808 shows the chic interior of Playhouse De Pijl at Pijlsteeg 27, where nowadays Hotel Krasnapolsky is located. Playhouse was the name for a luxurious brothel. Four girls dance in the middle of the room. Other girls talk and drink with the customers. In the background, a servant lets in new visitors. They must first report to the boss, who is behind a high desk on the left. In these types of play houses, an orchestra provided the music and the visitors drank and gambled a lot.

Since the eighteenth century, Amsterdam’s city council tolerated these type of luxury brothels. Over the centuries, the administrators had tried to curb prostitution. But the city council had never completely exterminated it. Prostitution was seen as a phenomenon that belonged to a large port city, like Amsterdam.

Many honorable Christian Amsterdammers did experience thorns. For example, on Monday 7 November 1887, the Association for the Fight against Prostitution met in a room on Warmoesstraat. The members were excited about the prostitution that was rampant in Amsterdam. Partly thanks to this movement, the national ban on brothels was introduced in 1911.

The Spin House

Amsterdam, Red Light District, 19th-century.

Regularly prostitutes were brought to the so called Spin House – a penitentiary for women. The convicted women (criminals, beggars and prostitutes) were punished, sat in a large room and also had to spin and sew. Everybody who paid a nickel could watch them as if it was the zoo. The women were forced to nit and sew and were detained for a certain time.

Spin house (women’s prison) around 1700. A prison for female thieves, hookers, etc.

The Spin house in Amsterdam, 1650. Painted by Bartholomeus van der Helst.

This painting depicts several “regents” – the directors of the Dutch cities in the 17th century and the 18th century. The power was then in the hands of the regent families, who often gave family members powerful jobs. The Spin House had four male regents and two female regents. On the background of the painting you can get a glimpse of the daily affairs of this Spin house. One of the women gets beaten with a shoe. Apparently physical punishment was seen as an integral part of reeducation of the women.

Amsterdam, 17th-century. A woman gets beaten with a shoe as punishment.

Already in the 17th century women were brought to Amsterdam, a booming town, from elsewhere, mainly Flemish Brabant, the region just above Brussels. So there was women trafficking, but many women in Amsterdam did their trade voluntarily and came from the city itself. A lot of money was easily made this way.

Around 1700 the city government started to seriously clamp down on the organizers behind prostitution. So called “madams” (female pimps/ brothel owners) were sentenced to life in prison or exile. In 1706 a madam was for the first time put on the earlier mentioned “kaak” for all to see.

From 1722 they also started with flogging in public. Fines were also increased and the expensive clothing of the prostitutes, often owned by the madams, were confiscated. Around 1720 prostitution went underground, a number of large playhouses disappeared and the small whorehouses, where a madam and one or two prostitutes lived, made far less explicit promotion. The women no longer flaunted themselves in Front of the door of whorehouses. Instead they went to the “kruisbaan” (nickname for the street) to find customers. People used to call prostitutes walking the streets “kruisen”. The American word cruising appears to have originated from “kruisen”.

In an alley called Hasselaarsteeg [Hasselaar Alley], located at 100 yards from the harbor, brothels were left to their own devices, because sailors had to sleep somewhere and many of time they did that just there, in the houses of public women. The City of Amsterdam only withdrew the license of a public woman after a multitude of complaints about her, as is stated in a Police report from 1838 about a woman in the Handboogstraat.

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Legalisation and Repression

Year 1809 – 1882

With the French occupation of The Netherlands in 1809 the ban on prostitution was lifted. Starting from 1809 prostitution was allowed, under the condition that the women and brothel owners registered with the police. The reason for this practice originates from the Napoleonic wars. Soldiers and prostitutes often spent time together. During the Napoleonic wars there was a big increase in venereal disease, with negative consequences for the fighting strength of the army. It was hoped that the registration and checkups, including medical checkups, would decrease the number of venereal cases. The French government in The Netherlands ended the ban on prostitution and with the implementation of code penal in 1811 only prostitution with minors was made illegal. This meant the separation between the law and morals. Even more special is the Law-on-the-Cities of 1851, that recognised both brothels and prostitutes as legal! True!

After the French left in 1813 prostitution remained legal. In many cities, especially garrisoned ones, prostitution was regulated. Amsterdam was an exception. Even though prostitution was viewed as condemnable the local authorities would not interfere with the sector. Still the city of Amsterdam provided medical checkups for prostitutes.

Number of Brothels

In 1882 there were 68 legalised houses of prostitution, with 170 public women. In brothels signs were posted with this warning in three languages:
“In Holland, no prostitute can be kept in a house of tolerance, be it for debts, be or for whichever motive. People having doubts, can address these doubts to Police stations [follows the address].”

In 1854 the City of Amsterdam forbade “acquiring the attention by one or more women in a brothel of any one passing by, pouring liquor, beer or wine to a Policeman in uniform, all of which, together or with or without receipt of complaints about irregularities “ could lead to shutting down the brothel in its entirety. In England movements for abolition of the trade started in 1870, followed up in Amsterdam by The Midsummer night Association in 1888. The debate about prostitution reignited. Hundreds of books and pamphlets were written by proponents – fighting with statistics – defending public health and opponents, who considered the checkups of prostitutes a license for visiting brothels. The proponents for ending prostitution called themselves abolitionists. They chose this name because of its meaning in the fight against abolishing slavery globally. They started protesting right in front of a brothel, only to give rise to mockery [first], insults [after] and outright fights and up risings [in the end], meaning that this attempt to deal with the oldest profession on earth was doomed to fail.

“Reines des trottoirs” (Queens of the sidewalk), Amsterdam, late 19th century.

After so many centuries of condoning brothels, criticism against condoned prostitution eventually led to the “zedelijkheidwet” (morality law) of 1911. It became expressis verbis and officially forbidden by Amsterdam City law, to accommodate acts of indecency in one’s house or trade.

Police sally forth in May 1902 to close down brothel “The Green palace” in the Wijde Lombard steeg.
Cartoon in the Amsterdamsche Courant.

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Brothels went provocative

Violation of this new City-rule was punished with shut down by the Fornication Police, who went to the place in full pomp and circumstance!
Brothels advertising openly on the streets and in newspapers in a provocative way, didn’t do much good to the business of prostitution: Authorities reacted by making things more difficult. New laws were introduced, repression became firmer.

Provocative Advertisement of brothel Maison Weinthal circa 1900.

Brothel Maison Weinthal was shut down by the Amsterdam authorities on June 20th, 1902.

Now local brothel-keepers went into appeal with the courts, putting forward that the local City-laws were in contradiction to National laws. Eventually the Supreme Court in the Netherlands held that the Amsterdam City law did not contravene any higher body of law and the appeals were thereby dismissed.

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Health issues

In 1904, the Liquor Law went into force. This was to target females in bars trying to get the male visitors to drink beer, wine and jenever (the dutch version of gin). These women are called animation girls, since they try to animate you to drink and to pay the bill for both of you. They were prositutes too. It was forbidden to have female staff in a bar without a specific license from the City, mentioning the women and her address in question on paper.

As a result of the Sanitary Convention of 1916 drafted in Brussels, to which all civilised nations adhered, sailors of all nationalities can have free treatment of genital diseases. The invention by Alexander Fleming of a new drug: Penicillin, made treatment of venereal diseases possible. Quite a relief!

Amsterdam, Antoniesbreestraat, 1919 – The bowed bed of a prostitute.

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Statistics

In 1926, Amsterdam had 1900 working prostitutes in town. They worked on the streets, in houses or in cafes. Back then, 855 prostitutes (45%) worked on the streets. 627 prostitutes (33%) worked in houses and stood behind the window or in the doorway. 209 hookers (11%) worked in cafes or so called cabarets.

The trade of prostitution can be divided in certain categories:

  • Street prostitutes
  • House prostitutes
  • Bar-prostitutes
  • Occasional prostitutes
  • Brothel prostitutes and massage prostitutes
  • Call-girls

History of Prostitution in Amsterdam: Politicians and Prostitutes

Amsterdam, Red Light District, Oudekerksplein 34. Photographer: C. Jaring.

Rob Oudkerk, a former Dutch politician and alderman of Amsterdam in the nineties, was dismissed when, in a loose mood at a bar, he told female journalist Heleen van Royen that he frequented prostitutes at an Amsterdam industrial site. Rob Oudkerk, at the moment of publication in the year 2004, was an MP and was forced to resign and disappear from the national political theatre. Nowadays, prostitution is accepted, except by conservative and religious political parties, like CDA or CU.

Project 1012

In 2007, the City of Amsterdam adopted a policy called 1012 – the zip code of the Red Light District. It encompasses among other things, buying real estate [from wrongdoers] and installing regular shops in the real estate. Like a game cafe, fashion shops, chocolate shops, art galleries and so on. That policy has been successful. But because of this policy, the number of brothel windows is decreasing. This means less working space for the prostitutes. On April 9th, there was this big protest in Amsterdam, where sex workers protested against the closing of the brothels. “Don’t save us, save our windows”, sex workers said. In the 70’s and 80’s, the Red Light District was all about sex & drugs. At present the Amsterdam Red Light District is a fine place to be and to hang out. There is so much to see! Nowadays, it offers more than just window brothels and cannabis coffee shops.

Hidden Church in Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam’s hidden church Our Lord In The Attic.

Don’t forget to check Our Lord In The Attic (in Dutch: Onse Lieve Heer Op Solder), a wonderful 17th century house, where Catholics secretly held their worshipping ceremonies in a time Calvinism became the main religion in Holland (as from 1585). This 5 story house has a complete church on the highest floor, which is exactly the same now as in those days! The rest of the house shows how people lived in the 17th century without central heating and warm water.

Did you know that Catholics who paid the church were only allowed to sit on one of the benches? The poor (those who didn’t have money to pay the church) were welcome too, but they had to stand in the back.

Renaissance Costume

Renaissance costume wear is different, strictly speaking, from Renaissance clothing. For the most part, these are just-for-fun items that can be purchased in costume stores. Also, many medieval costumes can be observed at a typical renaissance fair. Renaissance fair costumes and medieval costumes are mass produced, often from modern synthetic materials. You’ve undoubtedly seen such costumes every year at Halloween, in retail giants like Walmart and Kmart. If you want to buy a cheap renaissance costume, check discount stores in October. For even cheaper renaissance and medieval costumes, wait until after Halloween, when the costumes are marked down.

If you want something more authentic to wear to a renaissance fair, check with the festival staff or website before you purchase a costume. Oftentimes, you can rent a suitable costume at the fair, near the main entry gate. Also, the fair you’re attending might offer quality Renaissance costumes and medieval costumes for sale.

1900-1910: Transition to the 1910s

With Poiret’s liberating of women’s corsets he took the first step to a straight silhouette and a fashion that made life easier for women. Poiret, amongst others, in combination with WWI, created a functional fashion with shorter skirts, simple lines and clothes that are similar to today. As in midi skirt, sweaters and cardigans! The 1900s were the last steps of old society and the first steps of the new life that awaited people. Out with the old and in with the new!

Next week I’ll talk about WWI, ransons and the years leading up to the flapper girls: 1910 – 1920! Hope you’ll like this series folks! Xx


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