Jochem Kruit en Wieke Metzlar

Created on Apr 16th, 2023

SPARQL'ing Diamonds: an exploration of the ANDB dataset

Created 6 months ago


In the second half of the nineteenth century, the diamond industry in the Netherlands grew explosively. Even so, the wages of the workers remained low, and working days long, which caused budding social unrest among workers. Eventually, this unrest culminated in the November strike of 1894, when many labourers of the industry put down their tools. Moreover, this strike resulted in the founding of the Algemene Nederlandse Diamantbewerkersbond (ANDB, General Union of Diamond Workers). Following the strike, the ANDB booked several successes, such as changes to the working hours of the labourers, among other things.

While many labourers in the Dutch diamond industry had a Jewish background – around 1890, some fifty percent of Jewish families in Amsterdam were dependent on the diamond industry (Snyder, 2017) – the members of the ANDB were nevertheless diverse: both men and women; people from higher and lower paid and/or educated professions; and Jews and non-Jews joined the ANDB. The data of the ANDB can thus lend us a unique insight into the lives of ordinary, and even subaltern people, such as employed women, labourers in general, and on the history of the Jewish population in Amsterdam.

In 2019, the membership cards of both the ANDB and ADB (Antwerpse Diamantbewerkersbond – the Diamond Workers Union of Antwerp) were digitized by volunteers via the ‘Vele Handen’ project. Diamond workers could obtain such a membership card from their respective unions after completion of their education. The amount of socio-economic and demographic data these cards contained on the members of the unions is extensive: the cards contained information about the names, birthplace, birth date, education, addresses, migration, parents, spouse, and offspring of the worker. Therefore, the database of the ANDB and ADB comprises a unique source to track down the social history of the diamond workers at the end of the nineteenth, and beginning of the twentieth century.

In this data story, our ‘main character’ is Elizabeth Kuit: as we track down a part of her life story using the ANDB-ADB data set, we aim to along the way learn what information the database contains, what this shows about the differing circumstances diamond workers found themselves in, and how such information could be interesting for doing research on people working in the Amsterdam diamond industry at the end of the nineteenth, and beginning of the twentieth century.

For coherence, and in order to trace a ‘consistent’ line through the population in the data set, this data story will focus mainly on those labourers for whom some form of education is registered in the data set. The data set contains information on nine types of education, ranging from sawing (‘zagen’) to brilliant cutting (‘brillantsnijden’) – the latter the education that Elizabeth pursued.

The query below shows some basic personal information about the individuals in the data set. Searching for ‘Elizabeth Kuit’, you will find that she was born in 1908 in Amsterdam and, as mentioned, was educated as a brilliant cutter. Elizabeth had two siblings: a brother (Ephraim – not independently visible because no education was registered) and a sister (Theresia), both of whom also worked in the diamond industry, something that was not unusual.