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Strategic Affection?

Strategic Affection?: Gift Exchange in Seventeenth-Century Holland

Irma Thoen
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Strategic Affection?
    Book Description:

    Gifts, from objects to hospitality and from poems to support, are a means of establishing and maintaining social ties. This study focuses on the nature of seventeenth- century Dutch social relations through the exchange of gifts by a wide range of individuals, from schoolmaster and artisan to poet and regent. Their gift-exchange behaviour is compared to contemporary gift exchange to show that both strategy and affection are necessary elements of social relations at any given time, and that what changes most is not the system but the discourse of exchange. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0343-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    Irma Thoen
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-44)

    When in 1624 Constantijn Huygens was staying in London with an official delegation, he received a number of letters from Dorothea van Dorp.¹ Dorothea lived next to the Huygens family in The Hague and had once been his childhood sweetheart. In these letters she not only kept him informed on the latest gossip of high society in The Hague, but she also urged Huygens on several occasions to have Lady Killigrew, a mutual acquaintance, send her a present.² On 24 March Dorothea wrote:

    “I wish lady Killigrew would send me a little golden ring.”³

    A month later she received a...

  5. Part I: Practices of Gift Exchange
    (pp. 45-96)

    It seems fruitful to start off this research by offering a broad outline of general patterns of gift exchange in seventeenth-century Holland. The sketch that follows here serves as a means of pointing out possible patterns of gift exchange by a seventeenth-century individual. It does not draw on the pretext that this person’s gift behaviour is representative for the whole Dutch population of that period. It rather offers an initial opportunity to map what the possible occasions for and networks of exchange were in this period, and what types of gifts were exchanged in these instances. Or to put it...

  6. Part II: Gifts and Meanings
    (pp. 97-150)

    As the diary of David Beck has shown, hospitality was quantitatively the most important gift in seventeenth-century Holland. This gift was commonly used to maintain social relations, both in the sense that it was offered most often and in the sense that it was offered on a daily basis. However, other gifts carried greater significance in qualitative terms. This is especially true of the gifts that were – next to a host’s hospitality – presented on those occasions that celebrated or mourned life’s significant events.¹ These were events like birth, marriage and death, but also academic promotions and other events...

  7. Part III: Terms and Conditions of Exchange
    (pp. 151-196)

    In the first chapter, it was made clear that gift exchange took place within several different types of social networks. Gifts were exchanged within the family, between friends, and also with people who someone would be in contact with for professional reasons. There are some general patterns that can be ascertained for these different networks: The family played a more important role in life’s important events and were therewith more likely to receive material objects, friends received hospitality on a day-to-day basis and during calendar feasts, and the gifts that professional contacts received depended on their profession. Nevertheless, the way...

  8. Part IV: Comparison in Time
    (pp. 197-222)

    In the preceding chapters, several aspects of seventeenth-century Dutch gift exchange have been discussed. The goal of this research was to try to understand how gift exchange as a system was organised in seventeenth-century Holland and how it was perceived by individuals in the context of seventeenth-century Dutch society. The general idea was that by taking gift exchange as a means of establishing and maintaining social ties and therewith an important factor in social relationships, gift exchange could help determine whether relationships in this period were as instrumental as they are often perceived by contemporary historians.¹ Or, to put it...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-230)

    If anything has been clarified over the past few chapters, it has to be the fact that gift exchange is indeed an important social practice. Although human contact is possible without gifts, it is frequently accompanied and enriched by gifts, both in the seventeenth-century and contemporary society.¹ Gifts are exchanged on almost every occasion, sometimes big and splendid gifts are offered, at other times, just a plain cup of coffee. Gifts themselves are instruments: they are used to establish and maintain the social relationships people have. Gifts are employed to initiate social contact and they are used to reaffirm the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 231-268)
  11. Sources
    (pp. 269-270)
  12. Literature
    (pp. 271-282)
  13. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 283-285)