Hendrick Peter Godfried Quack

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Hendrick Peter Godfried Quack
H.P.G. Quack.jpg
Portrait by Hendrik Johannes Haverman (1899)
Born2 July 1834
Died6 January 1917(1917-01-06) (aged 82)
Academic work
Main interestsPolitical economy, socialism

Hendrick Peter Godfried Quack (2 July 1834 – 6 January 1917) was a Dutch legal scholar, economist and historian, who is best known for his work De socialisten: Personen en stelsels ("The socialists: persons and systems").[1]


Quack, born in Zetten to a beer brewer and his wife, commenced studies at Utrecht in 1853, followed by law studies at the Amsterdam Athenaeum Illustre. In Amsterdam, he attended lectures by Jeronimo de Bosch Kemper and Martinus des Amorie van der Hoeven, both Christian critics of liberalism. Following the example of his professors, Quack became convinced that liberalism could not address the social problems of his day. He submitted a thesis about fourteenth-century statehood and earned a doctorate degree in July 1860 (from Utrecht University, because the Athenaeum Illustre lacked the right to confer such degrees[2]).

In the following year, Quack worked as a clerk at the provincial government of North Holland, then became a journalist, and also worked for some time at the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce. From 1860 onward, he wrote for the literary journal De Gids, of which he became an editor in 1863. In September 1863, he secured a position as a secretary of the state railway company.

Having been appointed professor of political economy at Utrecht University in 1868, Quack presented his students with socialist theories of economics besides teaching the common curriculum of the time. In 1875, he started writing his magnum opus on the history of the socialist movement, De socialisten: Personen en stelsels. The first volume of this book would appear in 1877; the last, twenty years later. Also in 1877, Quack left his academic position, to be succeeded by Johan d'Aulnis de Bourouill, and took a job at De Nederlandsche Bank. He proceeded with his historical work, and in fact one of the reasons for switching jobs was the increase in salary, which he needed to buy more books for his studies.[3] Quack was to join the board of directors of De Nederlandsche Bank in 1885, also becoming professor extraordinair[a] of the history of political economy at the University of Amsterdam, which he remained until 1894.

Although a critic of economic liberalism, Quack never joined any of the socialist currents, although he did attend the 1872 Congress of the International.[2] Nor did he join any other political current: he felt related to liberals, in particular Cort van der Linden, but disliked their individualism; he admired socialists' ideals, but not what he considered their "breeding of mistrust and hate" as a means to realize them; his own ideals resembled social conservatism, but he was too much of a democrat to feel related to the conservatism practiced in the Netherlands.[1] He has been described as a "cathedral socialist" with Saint-Simonist ideas.[2] According to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, with whom Quack exchanged some letters,[2] Quack lacked either courage or drive, and with these qualities, he might have become "our Lassalle".[3] Theory and practice were in a state of tension in Quack's life: during the 1903 railroad strikes, he was president of the board of the state railroad company and supported the firing of 11% of the company's personnel. In his memoir, he recalled this episode as "the most cruel page of the book of my life", but still defended the decision.[1]


De socialisten. Personen en stelsels (three volumes, 1877–1897, Amsterdam[1]; reprinted 1977[2]) is considered Quack's main work. It is a compendium of biographies of early socialists, including many forgotten thinkers, based on Quack's study of primary sources.[2]

Other works include:

  • Martinus des Amorie van der Hoeven (1864, Amsterdam)
  • Traditie en Ideaal in het volksleven (1872, Utrecht)
  • Studiën en schetsen (1886, Amsterdam)
  • Uit de kring der gemeenschap (1899)
  • Herinneringen (1913)


  1. ^ Dutch: Buitengewoon hoogleraar, a type of professorship in the Dutch academic system.


  1. ^ a b c d Woltjer, J. J. (2013) [1985]. "Quack, Hendrick Peter Godfried (1834–1917)". Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland. Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Harmsen, Ger (2001). "QUACK, Hendrick Peter Godfried". Biografisch Woordenboek van het Socialisme en de Arbeidersbeweging in Nederland.
  3. ^ a b Arthur Lehning's introduction to the centenary edition of Quack, H.P.G. (1977) [1877]. De socialisten. Personen en stelsels. Het Wereldvenster.
Part of this article is based on a lemma in the 1888–91 Biographisch woordenboek der Noord- en Zuidnederlandsche letterkunde by F. Jos. van den Branden and J.G. Frederiks, which is in the public domain.