Professionalization of public service: civil servants in Dordrecht, 1575-1795


This article examines the extent to which bureaucratization and professionalization of public services occurred in early modern Dordrecht, a medium-sized town in the Dutch Republic. To this end, general developments in spending on public services are investigated, followed by more in-depth analysis of changes in three different professions of officials: Dordrecht’s city secretaries, city midwives, and gatekeepers. Three possible explanations for the bureaucratization and professionalization of public services in Dordrecht are investigated: economic and demographic developments, social standing of the offices, and type of service provided. There appears to be a definite, albeit not necessarily linear, relationship between economic and demographic influences and the process of bureaucratization. The extent of professionalization can to a large degree be explained by the variations in social status and in working sphere between the different types of officials providing public services, in which varying degrees of monitoring and regulation were considered desirable.


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