Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen

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Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen is a Dutch association for the public welfare, usually called "Het Nut." It was founded on 16 November 1784, on a plan made by Jan Nieuwenhuizen, the pastor of the Mennonite Church of Monnikendam, and his son Martin Nieuwenhuizen, a physician at Edam. The objective of "Het Nut" was to promote education among the poorer classes by means of the publication of good but inexpensive books, and also to improve the school system and the education of youth. To this end independent chapters of the organization were founded in various places in the Netherlands under the leadership of the central management at Amsterdam. Article I of the first constitution of the association stated, "Everyone, of any rank or religion, wherever he may live, and at any time shall be eligible for membership on the Association and its chapters." This principle of toleration has been preserved to the present by the stipulation of Article II, "The Association strives to attain its goal independently of any ecclesiastical or political party."

In the first years of its existence the Association had a great influence on the improvement in instruction, especially by means of building model schools and publishing good schoolbooks. The first school law of 1806 incorporated to a large extent the principles that the Association had presented to the "National Convention" of 1796 as "General Thoughts Concerning National Education," and which were already practiced in their schools.

In 1791 the Association began its work in the field of libraries. The first library was opened in Haarlem. By 1956 the Association had 205 public libraries, in addition to 45 libraries for young people.

The Association also gave the impulse for the establishment of the first savings banks in 1817; the number of savings banks had grown to 133 by 1956.

Taking its work seriously, the Association has sought to extend its field of activity by paying an increasing amount of attention to social work. It also supports the promotion of preparatory and "continuation" instruction, guarantee of pension for kindergarten teachers, instruction in handicrafts, establishment of specialized libraries, arranging library reading, lectures, refining popular entertainments, physical exercise, sport, leasing of garden plots, founding of savings banks and people's banks.

In 1918 the Association created a professorship of pedagogy at the University of Amsterdam, with which is connected a seminar and an office for research in problems of organization and pedagogy. Since 1919 it has been publishing the periodical Volksontwikkeling.

The Association had about 300 chapters in the same number of localities in the 1950s. From the very beginning the Mennonites have taken a large interest in the activities of "Het Nut." Both in the head board and in the boards of the chapters Mennonites often were leading. H. Craandijk, in 1957 was moderator of the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit (Dutch general Mennonite conference), and was at the same time president of the Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen. In 1927 it had 40,000 members.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 102 f.

Huizinga, Johan. Gedenkboek: Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen, 1784-1934. Amsterdam: De Maatschappij, 1934.

Het Nut nu. Amsterdam : Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen, 1953.

Author(s) K Hovens Greve
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hovens Greve, K. "Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 13 Jun 2024.

APA style

Hovens Greve, K. (1957). Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 June 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 429-430. All rights reserved.

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