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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Historical Studies (CHS)

PhD Ceremony C.C. BRUMMER (CHS), Sam van Houten tegen de rest

When:Th 09-11-2023 14:30 - 15:30
Where:Academy building

C.C. (Coen) Brummer will defend his doctoral thesis on Thursday 14 September 2023.

Sam van Houten tegen de rest
Het strijdbare leven van de man van de kinderwet


  • Prof. Dr J.W. Renders
  • Prof. Dr G. Voerman

The University Library publishes the thesis digitally after the defence ceremony.


In 2024, it will have been 150 years since the Dutch Parliament passed the child labour bill, this "kinderwetje" was the first social law of the Netherlands. This secured a place in the history books for its proposer, Samuel van Houten (1837-1930). However, Van Houten was more than just his child labour bill.

As a young member of Parliament in Groningen, he gained fame as a major reformer within liberalism. He was known as the "political killer" of statesman Thorbecke. For twenty years, he was the leading advocate for expanding suffrage and fairer taxation. Catholics despised him for his advocacy of birth control through contraceptives and allowing divorce, while feminists admired him. When he unexpectedly opposed further suffrage expansion in 1894, he lost his parliamentary seat and all his political allies after 25 years. Nevertheless, he made a comeback as the Minister of Interior and succeeded in passing his own electoral law.

At the end of his life, he was both an éminence grise and an angry old man of Dutch politics. At the age of 85, he was still elected to the Dutch Parliament with his own Liberal Party. Disillusioned by mass democracy, he surrounded himself with questionable individuals inspired by Mussolini's fascism.

Using parliamentary debates, newly discovered archival material, and Van Houten's hundreds of publications, Coen Brummer brings him back to life 150 years after his child labor law in this first comprehensive biography.