Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Koos Vorrink and Henk van Laar

In November 2014 the papers of the Dutch social democrat leader Koos Vorrink were discovered in an attic. His papers have now been catalogued and the inventory is available online. The accompanying papers of his daughter Irene Vorrink  and her partner Herman Hugenholtz  have also been catalogued.

Koos Vorrink’s papers include a great deal of material relating to his wife Irene Vorrink-Bergmeijer. Koos Vorrink and his wife wrote hundreds of letters to one another during the period 1910-1951. There are documents about his training to become a teacher and the years in which he taught at school. The Union of Abstaining Pupil Teachers (KGOB) played an important role in Vorrink's life during that period. Key sections of the archive relate to the Workers Youth Federation (AJC), the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDAP), and the Labour Party (PvdA). Vorrink was among the survivors of a plane crash in Denmark in 1949. There followed a long period of recuperation during which Vorrink received many, many letters, all of which have been preserved.

Two letters from Henk van Laar, whose archive the IISH acquired in mid-2015, are especially interesting. Like Vorrink, van Laar was a teacher, a teetotaler, youth educator, and social democrat at heart. In January 1953 van Laar sent an impashioned letter to the Labour Party’s executive board. Vorrink received a copy of this letter and an additional personal letter that left nothing to the imagination. Van Laar wrote about Amsterdam, “And besides, the social democrats on the municipal council are in my opinion the worst we’ve had in many years. There is a huge amount for the local party to do ... but the central officials are on the council. For the council, too, there is a huge amount to do ... but the councilors are administrators in the local party. But also: the same people are still on the Provincial Council. Why? For many reasons, but perhaps the most important is still a certain human vanity” (inv. no. 202).

In short, these archives provide fascinating building blocks for a study of the party culture of the social democrats in the past and the present. (Bouwe Hijma)

15 December 2015