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How innovative is the recently proposed legislative bill to restrict the community of property really? The tradition has actually worked effectively for centuries, concludes Marcel Kremer in his PhD dissertation on Mennonite marriage contracts in the 18th century. Kremer will defend his dissertation at the University of Amsterdam on Friday, 13 December at 13:00.

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Kremer conducted a legal historical case study, in which he explored the practical application of community of property as documented in 18th-century marriage contracts of members of the Mennonite community in the Dutch city of Groningen. In 18th-century marriage contracts, future spouses made agreements on not only the extent of their common property but also, and in particular, to arrange their inheritance in such a manner that if one spouse passed away before the other, the surviving spouse would be provided for. 

Tailor-made provisions

When it came to matrimonial property law, the Mennonites of Groningen made arrangements that were relatively less favourable towards the surviving spouse than the existing civic law provisions. However, the provisions for succession particularly favoured the surviving spouse, with the addition of tailor-made provisions to secure his or her position. How well the surviving spouse would be cared for was determined in part by a judicious choice of marriage partner. When it came time to formalising the agreement, differences in the prospective spouses' financial resources or expectations are seen to have played a significant role. This is attested by the huge variation that Kremer found in general and special care provisions. 

The past revisited

In his study, Kremer focused on Groningen's Mennonite community in order to dissect the relationship between the socio-economic circumstances of the contracting parties and the practical application of the law. His study is the first to do this. He devotes considerable attention to the role of the choice of marriage partner as well as that of possessions such as books, household effects, clothes and residential properties. In revealing all the factors that played into the legal arrangements made for surviving spouses, Kremer's study sheds new light on the past. 

Publication details

M.R. Kremer, Huwelijk en vermogen. Een (rechts)historische case study naar de verzorging van de langstlevende echtgenoot in de stad Groningen onder doopsgezinden (1699-1809).

Time and location 

The PhD defence ceremony will take place on Friday, 13 September at 13:00. Venue: Mennonite church (Singelkerk), Singel 452, Amsterdam.