Current Projects

Discovering Europe in the Early Modern Period: How Literary Bestsellers shaped a Diverse Community, 1517-1713

This project offers a modest contribution to exploring the question: ‘what does Europe mean?’ The focus is on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a period that witnessed the Reformation, which tore apart the fabric of European society, but also saw the emergence of an incipient secular understanding of Europe as a diverse community. This is apparent from the project’s main sources: the popular stories of the era. Moreover, many of these works, including Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, Cervantes’ Don Quixote and More’s Utopia, were circulated and consumed in different ways across the entire continent. As such, this project hypothesizes, they did not only reflect but also shape the idea of Europe as a shared cultural community.

The literary author and Dutch booksellers' privileges: ideas about copyright in the long seventeenth century (1550-1750)

The Netherlands were relatively late with the legislation of author's copyright in 1912. This does not mean that feelings of intellectual ownership or possibilities to profit from literary writings did not exist up until then. Various seventeenth-century authors shared their concerns about the ways others handled their work, and we know several examples of authors who profited financially from their literary work, for example by negotiating cleverly or by self-publishing. 

A source that enables us to achieve more insight in these kinds of early feelings of ownership and possibilities of financial advancement related to literary books, is the booksellers' privilege which could be requested by authors. This project systematically analyses these privileges and requests in order to answer the question how ideas about ownership and financial advancement of literary authors developed during the long seventeenth century. Do the privileges confirm the widely shared hypothesis that authors became increasingly aware of their ownership and financial rights or were ideas about an author's copyrights always present?  

Astrology and Religion in ‘Calendars of Shepherds’: Forms and Functions of Popular Knowledge in Transnational Perspective

This project analyses the intended uses and users of the almanac-like ‘Calendars of Shepherds’ that were popular around 1500. Through a transnational comparison of the material, visual and textual characteristics of selected editions in four languages, this project interrogates early modern conceptions of practical and ‘bookish’ knowledge, as well as the visual literacies and needs for knowledge that book producers in different regions of Europe presupposed among their target audiences. The case of the calendars of shepherds challenges us to rethink relations between religious and secular instruction, and between transnational and regional print culture. A peer-reviewed article is envisaged for 2023.

• Researcher: Andrea van Leerdam MA
• Duration: 2022
• Funding: Tiele Fellowship 2022

Singing Alliance: Song as Cultural Politics in Franco-Batavian Relations

Songs played an important role in the Dutch Revolutionary period (c. 1780-1815). It was a popular means to participate in the public debate, to voice ideas and mobilise others. This function of song was not confined to any borders, what's more, song was particularly suitable means to cross borders and bring together different groups. The Dutch Patriots were very much aware of this and used song to shape their alliances with their 'brothers' in revolutionary France. This proces started already in the 1780s, before any revolutionary action had well taken place. 

This project investigates this employment of song in the relationship between the Dutch Patriots (later Batavians) and the French looking at the developments from Dutch to Batavian Republic and from pre-revolutionary to Napoleonic France. During this periode, the Franco-Batavian relations changed quite significantly. How can we hear this changes in the songs travelling back and forth between these nations? 

• Researcher: Dr. Renée Vulto
• Duration: September-October 2022
• Funding: MdNL Fellowship 2022


Uncovering Joyful Culture: Parodic Literature and Practices in and around the Low Countries (13th-17th centuries)

This project studies the cultural practices and the literary production of joyful culture (among which parodic texts in French and Dutch), in order to demonstrate the essential role of parody in social cohesion in the pre-modern era.

Language Dynamics in the Dutch Golden Age: linguistic and social-cultural aspects of intra-author variation

The vibrant political, religious and cultural atmosphere of the Dutch Golden Age interacted with language. 17th century Dutch was a mixture of fading linguistic properties from the preceding language phase, Middle Dutch, and upcoming new ways to construct words and sentences. How can we account for the variation, seemingly randomly displayed by authors? This project charts and explains the grammatical properties of intra-author variation, as well as the social- and literary-cultural factors that influenced the way individual authors used their variation in a strategic and/or creative way.

Golden Agents: Creative Industries and the Making of the Dutch Golden Age

The Dutch Golden Age’s paintings, books, ceramics etc. still fascinate millions of people, but how did these creative outbursts emerge? In the ‘Golden Agents’ Research Infrastructure, so-called computer agents ingeniously connect existing and new databases to facilitate interdisciplinary research that unravels the inner dynamics of this creative miracle.

Annotating History: Managing Digital Heritage Interactively

In the project ‘Annotating History: Managing Digital Heritage Interactively’, historians from Utrecht University work together with Brill Publishers, Museum Huis Doorn and the University Library to develop new possibilities for annotating digitised heritage (such as early printed books, archival documents and images). They will design a versatile annotation tool, based on a prototype that was developed in the project 'Annotated Books Online' (2012-2014).

  • Project leader: Prof. Arnoud Visser
  • Funding: NWO Alfa Meerwaarde grant