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Research Institute for History and Art History

Cultural History


"The group’s research focus on the global and transdisciplinary aspects of modernity should be ever more relevant in our globalised and interconnected society."

- External visitation report, 2012

The Utrecht Cultural History group connects to some of the most promising new research lines in the field, in particular digital humanities, cultural modernity, communication history, world history, and the history of science.

The group focuses on three overlapping themes:

History of Cultural Modernity

Continuing a strong research tradition at Utrecht, the group’s emphasis is increasingly on the international dimensions of cultural modernity in historical perspective, including world history or global history, trans-Atlantic connections, reference cultures, cultural citizenship and religious culture. One ambition is to open up the field of world history for cultural history, among others by the link with history education and history didactics on a local and national level.

History of Communication

The history of media and communication is a new research area, involving mechanisms of cultural transmission and exchange among individuals, groups, societies and nations. Digital humanities is one exciting dimension, in which the group has invested substantially, putting it at the cutting edge of international research.

History of the Sciences and the Humanities

Research largely takes place within the highly successful Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, a collaboration of all Faculties of Utrecht University. Themes include discipline formation and university history, and there is a clear link with both cultural modernity and digital humanities.


The ‘Pink Lenin’ (Wende Museum, Los Angeles) is the mascot of the Utrecht Cultural History group. This official German Democratic Republic bust presumably gained its cheerful colours during a demonstration in Leipzig, October 1989, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It exemplifies the agency and creativity of ordinary people in response to repressing traditions and institutions, in this case a simple plea for a reformed socialism with a human face.
Photo: Wende Museum