Martje aan de Kerk, ASH PhD candidate, will defend the dissertation entitled 'Madness and the city. Interactions between the mad, their families and urban society in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, 1600-1795' supervised by Prof. Geert Jansen and Prof. Gemma Blok.
Early modern madness is a topic that sparks most of our imaginations. Either horror images about solitary confinement and neglect or the more romantic view of wandering town lunatics have formed (and informed) our collective memory. But what was life really like for the mad living in the cities of the Dutch Republic? To provide insight into this subject and fill a significant gap in Dutch historiography, the goal of this thesis is to shed light on the daily reality of the mad. By combining – for the first time – new and various sources from three cities, it became possible to uncover both the intra- and extramural care for the mad and see how this group was dealt with in urban society. Showing that the care system for the mad was organized within an intricate urban care system in which the different types of madness had their own place and multiple actors were involved in the process. The care system was organized in two spheres: the private and the public, and in both the family unit was the most important caregiver and care organizer. These conclusion made it possible to answer the main question addressed in this thesis: how can the increase of the systems of care for the mad in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht in the early modern period be explained and which driving forces were behind this increase? Ultimately, bringing us closer to understanding not only madness in itself but also its larger historical and societal meanings.