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Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies 38.2 (July 2014)

10 June 2014

Dutch Crossing : Journal of Low Countries Studies


The theme of immigration seems to be discussed on an almost daily basis in the British media at the moment. However, as we know, it is not a new phenomenon, but has been an almost permanent feature in the history of Britain. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many thousands of people from the Low Countries were forced to leave home and seek a new life elsewhere. Given its geographical proximity it is not surprising that many of these refugees headed for Norfolk in eastern England. Large Dutch and French communities were established in Norwich; there was a smaller Dutch community, which lasted for some 100 years, in Great Yarmouth; and short-lived Dutch communities were established in King’s Lynn and Thetford. The locals referred to the migrants as Strangers, their arrival brought both opportunities and challenges. In the five papers in this edition of Dutch Crossing, various aspects of the history of the Dutch Strangers in Norfolk are considered.

John Alban opens the batting by setting the scene. John hosted the conference at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) in his capacity as County Archivist. In his article he provides us with the details of a wide range of documents held at the NRO dating from the early fourteenth century to the present day. These illustrate the long history of interaction between the Low Countries and Norfolk, into which the story of the Strangers can be placed.

Alastair Duke takes two sets of letters, both written in the early days of the Strangers’ presence in Norwich, as the basis for his article. Some of the letters are addressed to Strangers in the city, whilst others were written by them. They provide a wonderful insight into the concerns on either side of the North Sea of those who had travelled to this strange land, and of those whom they had left behind.

Frank Meeres’ article provides a wealth of sources in the NRO relating to the Strangers. Some of these sources are local records, such as the Mayor’s Court Books, whilst others are documents produced from within the Dutch community in Norwich. Anyone wishing to research the history of this community is advised to read Frank’s article.

We conclude with two articles written by myself, the guest editor. In the first of these I consider the evidence for the use of the Dutch language in early modern Norfolk in a number of social domains. This is part of a larger project to map the use of the language in early modern Britain. In the second article I discuss Dutch poetry written and printed by the Strangers. Some of this is satirical and libellous, whilst other verse, notably that of Jan Cruso, demonstrates a fine mastery of the Dutch alexandrine.

I would like to thank all those who contributed to making the conference a success and in particular to John, Alastair, and Frank for their thought-provoking articles, and help in assembling this edition of Dutch Crossing. I am also grateful to the Flemish Representation of the Embassy of Belgium, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Association of Low Countries Studies for their generous financial support for the conference, and to the Norfolk Record Office, which hosted the event. Finally, I am writing this introduction from Seoul in South Korea. As such I am an immigrant in this exotic land, and that fact often makes me reflect on how life might have been for the Dutch Strangers in Norfolk.

Christopher Joby, Seoul

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Page last modified on 02 feb 12 13:17 by Ulrich Tiedau