Since the 1990s, the Dutch equivalent for “heritage,” erfgoed, has become a
buzzword in the Netherlands. Often presented as a neologism, little attention
is paid to the term’s longer history. Th is article traces the history through
a survey of digitized newspapers from 1700 to 1975, revealing elements of
erfgoed’s current meaning well before the twentieth-century heritage mania.
In the eighteenth century a synonym of “freedom,” in the latter nineteenth
century frequently carrying the prefix nationaal, and in the 1930s associated
with genetics and folk culture, erfgoed can be regarded as a speculum vitae,
taking on different meanings depending on the era. As elsewhere in Europe,
the second half of the nineteenth century was the most decisive moment in
the evolution of the term.