In the next Cultural History Seminar on 30 March, Dr Jeroen Koch (Cultural History) will speak about the biographies of Abraham Kuyper and William I he wrote. He will shed light on the responses to both books, that reflected the effects of Dutch pillarisation and the nation state.
Abraham Kuyper and William I
Between 1998 and 2013 Koch wrote two large biographies. First, a biography of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), the reverend, theologian, journalist, politician, founder of the first modern political party in the Netherlands, of an orthodox Calvinist church, and of the Calvinist Free University in Amsterdam, and Prime Minister between 1901 and 1905. This book was published in 2006. Second, a book on King William I of the Netherlands (1772-1843), published in 2013, together with a biography of William II (1792-1849) and of William III (1817-1890). Both men, Kuyper and William I, were larger than life; in a way they are monuments of Dutch national history.
His lecture will not concern his current project, which is composing a synthesis, for an international audience, of the three biographies of the Dutch 19th-century kings. Instead, he will tell a few things about the public (and scientific) responses to both books, which were quite an experience. The response to the Kuyper book reflected the way pillarisation, although it died in the 1970s, still colours the perception of the Dutch public and of the historical science.
Dutch nation state
If Kuyper could be called the involuntary architect of Dutch pillarisation, William I certainly is one of the founders of the Dutch nation state. And again that fact accounts for a lot of the responses to the book. As biographers, we tried to make clear that the lives of these kings can only be understood in their European context. Readers in the Netherlands and, partly, in Flanders, sometimes prefer a different message.