The Lure of the City

Migration, Crime, and Urbanization in Amsterdam, 1850-1905


  • Marion Pluskota Leiden University
  • Jeannette Kamp Leiden University



Crime, Urban, Vagrancy, Migration, Tribunal


This article questions the impact of urbanization on crime rates by studying Amsterdam migrants in front of the correctional court between 1850 and 1905 and connecting the historiography on crime and migration. The data shows no clear link between urbanization and a rise in crime, but it does reveal the role of external factors in the prosecution of specific crimes. The crisis experienced by the urban labour market in the late 1870 and 1880s had a direct impact on Amsterdam crime rates: although Amsterdam could initially integrate low-skilled workers in its labour market, the situation became unsustainable after a few years. It led to an increase in the prosecution of vagrancy and begging offences, which were committed first and foremost by Dutch unemployed or unskilled migrant workers. This article thus shows the importance of considering migrants in crime history not as a homogenous group but as different groups, each with its own support networks, and influenced differently by the micro- and macro-economic developments of the nineteenth century.


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Author Biographies

  • Marion Pluskota, Leiden University

    Marion Pluskota (1983) is an assistant professor in social history specialized in crime and gender history. Her main fields of interests are the history of gender relations in crime history from the 18th- to the early 20th-century in Europe and the history of sex work. Her most recent publication, ‘Gender and the Geography of Crime in Nineteenth-Century Leiden and Amsterdam’, Crime, History, and Societies (2023) analyses the gendered use of the urban space in 19th-century Leiden and Amsterdam and its impact on recorded crimes.   

  • Jeannette Kamp, Leiden University

    Jeannette Kamp (1986) is a social historian studying crime to understand how the daily lives of historical actors were impacted by processes like migration, gender norms, and state formation between 1600 and 1900. She has published extensively on crime and gender in Germany and The Netherlands, notably Kamp J.M. (2019), Crime, gender and social control in early modern Frankfurt am Main Crime and City in History no. 3. Leiden: Brill. She is currently working as a post-doc in the project ‘Tolerant Migrant Cities?’ and researches the process of urbanization and its impact on crime in the Netherlands between ca 1850 and 1910.




How to Cite

The Lure of the City: Migration, Crime, and Urbanization in Amsterdam, 1850-1905. (2023). TSEG - The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 20(1).