Projects

The Cultural History group currently runs a variety of externally funded projects (including recently completed project):

  • 2 ERC Consolidators grants
  • 1 Horizon Europe Project
  • 2 large Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) projects
  • 1 Aspasia project
  • 2 NWO Open Competition project
  • 1 eSCIENCE grant
  • 2 externally funded book projects

Our staff also conduct research as part of their regular appointments. See the personal website of our staff members, under the ‘research’ tabs.

ERC Consolidators grants

FORCE (‘Forensic Culture. A Comparative Analysis of Forensic Practices in Europe, 1930-2000’)

The ERC Consolidator project ‘Forensic Culture. A Comparative Analysis of Forensic Practices in Europe, 1930-2000’ investigates the differences between forensic practices in Europe in the period 1930-2000. Science and technology’s impartial and unambiguous results seem to ensure that justice is done equally for everyone. In reality, however, the role and impact of forensic science depend on where the court is located.

Scholars have attributed this regional variance to either the availability of technology or the different legal systems. These explanations have not been backed up by empirical or comparative research and do not sufficiently explain why scientific experts are powerful in some national courtrooms, but dismissed in others.

Moreover, they neglect a third, vital factor: culture. This project will demonstrate the cultural influences that determine how forensic science was accepted in Europe (1930-2000) by focusing on historically and nationally variable political ideology, media representations and norms on gender and sexuality. It studies four European countries: the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and England.

Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary Networks (SKILLNET): the Republic of Letters as a pan-European knowledge society, 1400-1800

In SKILLNET, we study the early modern world of learning that was often referred to as the Republic of Letters. Ultimately, we want to know why the idea of a Republic of Letters was such a vital notion for over four hundred years, and what its fate was in the modern period. Therefore, we are finding out to what extent this ‘Republic’ acted as a community with a collective identity. We study the correspondence networks that scholars and scientists maintained, but also the way they remembered other scholars, the language they employed when writing to another and the knowledge society, 1400-1800 institutional settings that shaped the careers of learned people. We use insights from sociology, linguistics and economy, and combine digital network analysis and distant reading with qualitative research. Thus, we are modelling the community of scholars and scientists in a variety of ways, critically engaging with existing literature that all too often takes for granted the collective self-presentation of scholars and scientists as a community devoted to sharing knowledge across the political, religious and linguistic border and presents this ‘Republic’ as an invariable entity.

Horizon Europe

Petroculture’s Intersections with The Cultural Heritage sector in the context of green transitions

PITCH brings together academic and cultural sector organisation partners in six countries to spur on the processes by which humanities and arts scholarship and public interventions can strengthen citizen engagement with the constantly changing nature of cultural heritage and its relationship to past and present petrocultures to lay the groundwork for rapid, society-wide European green transitions away from a reliance on fossil-fuels. We base our project and pilot activities in the Arts and Humanities, which are academic disciplines especially equipped to be able to analyse and make sense of human cultures to understand how certain cultural practices emerge and change over time. This project is built around an experienced and large consortium consisting of both academic and societal partners: University of Stavanger (lead), University College London, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Universiteit Utrecht, University of Lisbon, Deutsches Technikmuseum, Finnish Forest Museum Lusto, E-Werk Luckenwalde, Studio Louter and EPIQ. Collectively we examine the power of narratives: how the stories we tell about ourselves, and our pasts shape our actions in the present and future. PITCH focuses on repurposing existing and future forms of heritage to facilitate just future green transitions. order.

  • Participants: Dr Gertjan Plets, Dr Janna Oud Amerveld
  • Duration: 2024 - 2027
  • Funding: Horizon Europe

NWO Aspasia project

The Business of Decolonisation and ‘Development’: European Interventions in Global Industries 1945-1983

Europe’s ‘modernising mission’ and the language of ‘development’ have come under increasing scholarly critique in recent years, and some historians have rightly suggested they be analysed as part of a longer trajectory of post/colonial power relations. Previous scholarship, however, has focused overwhelmingly on the role of governments and international organisations in investigating Europe’s relations with the ‘Third World’ after the Second World War. Less well known is exactly how and why development aid was implemented and the extent to which European private enterprise sought to influence the process from decolonisation to development.

This project analyses the role of individual businesses and their employees, as well as the institutional networks connecting them to government organisations and to each other. It takes a closer look at the international and intercultural encounters involved in a new era of investment in the Global South. The project contextualises German, British and Dutch policies and practices in Africa, Latin America and Asia against the backdrop of Cold War competition, an emerging Europe and a postcolonial world order.

NWO Dutch Research Agenda (NWA)

Constructing the Limes

The project Constructing the Limes: Employing citizen science to understand borders and border systems from the Roman Period until today is a large participatory heritage project evaluating the function and cultural mobilization of the border of the Empire during and after the Roman period. It is a collaborative project between geographers, archaeologists, geneticists, geologists and cultural historians.

Gertjan Plets and Jaap Verheul of the Cultural History section coordinate the cultural heritage studies component of this project. They will study how the Roman Frontier has been mobilized since the early modern period, was subsequently mobilized by as cultural heritage, and how the cultural construction of the Limes as a hard line between barbarians and civilization continues to influence the way in which Europe understands borders today.

Gertjan Plets also leads a work package using state-of-the-art DNA techniques to map and chart population dynamics in the Lower Rhine region. Innovative is the mobilization of critical theory in interpretation of aDNA (genetic profile) samples to better understand multiculturalism and population movement.

Re/presenting Europe

Re/Presenting Europe seeks to acknowledge the representation of diverse, often excluded, groups in an attempt of accurate knowledge production about diversity of Dutch and European people.

NWO Open Competition

Pretenders for the Printing Press. A New Conception of Historical Facts

In times of fake news and alternative historical facts, historians are increasingly confronted with disputes about the facts of the past. So far, we lack a good way to deal with such issues. This project therefore proposes the novel conception of networked historical facts, that it will submit to an empirical test. The case study will be the nineteenth-century controversy over the invention of the printing press. The result of this project will be a better understanding of how historical facts come into existence, and a way to break stalemates on historical facts.

  • Project Leaders: Dr Pieter Huistra
  • Duration: 2023 - 2024
  • Funding: NWO Open Competition
Masking the Machine: A Cultural History of the Graphical User Interface

Computers used to be operated by text commands that required specialist knowledge. This changed with the introduction of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) in the 1980s. Graphical icons such as the “desktop” or the “recycle bin” translated complicated programming codes into easily understandable metaphors. This made computers accessible to common users. However, GUIs are not neutral carriers of information: just like any cultural artifact, they carry messages of their own and structure the way we see the world. This project investigates the GUI and its history as part of a long tradition of human-machine interfaces to uncover its cultural impact.

  • Participants: Dr Jochen Hung
  • Duration: 2023 - 2024
  • Funding: NWO Open Competition

eSCIENCE projects

To be completed

To be completed

Externally financed Book projects

Two generations Kessler: a cultural history of a Dutch family of entrepreneurs, 1850-1970

August Kessler (1853-1900) is seen as the founder of the Dutch Royal Oil Company. One of his sons participated in the founding of Dutch Steel, another son was after the Second World War CEO of the Dutch Royal Shell. Yet, this is no simple business history, but a broad cultural panorama of a family trying to earn a fortune in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. As soon as richness is reached they become involved in science (physics and pedagogics), politics and diplomacy, art, architecture and sports, both national and international. The nineteenth and twentieth century bourgeois culture and the development of bourgeois culture in all its diversity is used as interpretative scheme.

  • Duration: 2019 – 2024
  • Funding: Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Amsterdam
Queer Geschiedenis van Nederland

Queer history of the Netherlands is about the work that activists from around 1900 onwards have undertaken to make the history of LGBT individuals, organisations and developments visible and embedded in collective memory.

Such 'memory activism' is inextricably intertwined with the struggle for emancipation of gay men, lesbian women, bisexuals and transgender people. Earlier generations of activists already traced historical role models and 'roots', resulting in a stream of historical products - from specialised archives to public books and journals, dissertations and monuments. But that history is now being critiqued by a new generation of activists, who demand attention to queers of colour and transgender people, for example.

The research will result in a public book, to be published by publisher Atlas Contact in spring 2026. Together with subject didactician Hanneke Tuithof, Marijke Huisman will also incorporate the book into an in-service training programme for teachers of humanities and social studies subjects in secondary education.

  • Duration: 2023 – 2025
  • Funding: Lira Fonds