Faith in Jest: Humour and the Literature of the English Reformation

This project investigates the way in which humour was used to relieve religious anxieties in Reformation England (1529-1642), and, as such, contributed to a more peaceful climate. It does so by studying how questions of faith were humorously reconfigured in imaginative literature – that is, long and short fictional narratives in the form of drama, jests and prose tales – and by examining these reconfigurations in the light of early modern and modern theories of the functions of humour. 

Poets and Profits: A new History of Dutch Literary Authorship 1550-1750

This project aims to rewrite the traditional narrative of profitable authorship. In this narrative, patronage and professionalism are placed in chronological succession, whereas recent insights show that patronage was not replaced by professionalism, but co-existed in alternate forms. Patronage and professionalism were much more entangled in the Dutch Republic than in other European countries and possibilities and restrictions for financial gain encountered by Dutch authors thus need to be part of a new European narrative. 

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 will chart and explain 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. The central hypothesis of the project is that the (internal) grammars of authors created a particular range of variation, which was systematically used by authors, based on contextual factors.

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.

  • Participants: Prof. Oscar Gelderblom, Prof. Wijnand Mijnhardt, Prof. Maarten Prak, Prof. Els Stronks (Humanities), Dr Mehdi Dastani (Information and Computing Sciences) in collaboration with researchers from Huygens ING, University of Amsterdam, Free University Amsterdam, City Archives Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum and RKD
  • Duration: 2016-
  • Funding: NWO Investment Grant Large
Sound Memories: The Musical Past in Late-Medieval and Early-Modern Europe (SoundMe)

An international consortium of music scholars will investigate the genesis and early development of the concept of ‘music of the past’ in 13th-century Paris, made possible by newly invented technologies of writing musical time.

They will also trace the deployment of such music in the service of various political and religious agendas across Europe in a series of case studies ranging chronologically from the 14th to the 16th century.

They are supported in their efforts by the singers of the Ascoli Ensemble (The Hague) who will be instrumental in disseminating the research to the general public.

  • Project leader: Prof. Karl Kügle
  • Partners: University of Cambridge, University of Heidelberg, Charles University Prague, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw
  • Duration: 2016-2019
  • Funding: HERA
The Europeans Dimensions of Popular Print Culture (EDPOP)

The aim of this project is to develop an international network and a virtual research environment (VRE) to facilitate and stimulate innovative research on European popular print culture. Although popular print culture has been studied intensively since the 1960’s, this was done mainly with a regional or national focus, based on the assumption that popular print in the vernacular had a limited geographical reach. Recent research has revealed however, that popular print culture had strong European characteristics and an often transnational infrastructure.

The key question of the project is: how European was popular print culture in the period 1450-1900? Besides workshops and conferences this network will develop a taxonomy of popular genres, a thesaurus of the producers and distributors of popular print and lists of (digitized) bibliographical and archival sources. The results of this project will shed new light on processes of cultural exchange, on the similarities and differences of popular genres, on international collaboration in the book industry, on the organisation of transnational distribution networks and on the multifaceted practices around translation, appropriation, adaptation and reception of stories, songs and images.

  • Project leader: Dr Jeroen Salman
  • Members: Dr Katell Lavéant; Dr Habil. Rita Schlusemann; Dr Helwi Blom
  • Duration: 2016-2018
  • Funding: NWO Internationalisation
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.

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
Coordinating for life. Success and failure of Western European societies in coping with rural hazards and disasters, 1300-1800

This project wants to better understand the factors that determine the extent to which a society is resilient to shocks and disasters. All societies are regularly confronted with disasters such as earthquakes, erosion, floods, hunger or war. While some are able to prevent such disasters, respond adequately, and recover quickly, others remain vulnerable and badly affected. Why is that the case? It has been demonstrated that wealth and technology alone are not sufficient factors which can prevent disasters. Factors relating to how society is organised also play a crucial role. This is the focus of research, in particular the strength of the society regarding the exchange, allocation and use of land, labour and capital. The researchers will study the various socio-economic factors in Western European societies from 1300 to 1800 in order to gain insight into the key determinants of the success or failure of society.

  • Project leader: Prof. Bas van Bavel
  • Participants: Daniel Curtis, Dr Tim Soens, Dr Eline van Onacker, Bram van Besouw
  • Duration: 2014-2019
  • Funding: European Research Council / ERC Advanced Grant
The funding of business in the pre-industrial world

This project builds an international network of scholars with either a theoretical interest in the historical development of different types of business organizations, or with first-hand empirical knowledge of the equity and debt contracts used in commercial, agricultural or manufacturing firms in preindustrial Europe and beyond. 

  • Project leaders: Prof. Oscar Gelderblom, Prof. Francesca Trivellato (Yale)
  • Partners: California Institute of Technology, Yale University
  • Duration: August 2014 - August 2017
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and project partners
Spinoza's Web

Appreciation of Spinoza’s philosophy has always been determined in part by his reputation and stories about his life. This project explores that link and develops tools to provide access to all of the information about Spinoza’s life, works and networks, both for research purposes and for the general public.

  • Project leader: Prof. Piet Steenbakkers
  • Post-doctoral researchers: Dr Jeroen van de Ven, Dr Albert Gootjes
  • Duration: 2014-2017
  • Funding: NWO Free Competition
Barriers to European Citizenship (BEUCITIZEN)

The BEUCITIZEN project focuses on the barriers that still exist to realise and exercise citizenship rights of EU citizens. Guilds and local citizenship have suffered bad press over the last two centuries, as monopolists (or monopsonists)  tried to capture rents on protected markets for raw materials, labour and consumer products. This paradigm is now under scrutiny and being revised, not least because there is enough evidence to suggest that the strict rules were not necessarily stringently applied. The parallels with modern practice come to mind. Historical studies can help us to unravel the underlying mechanisms of such behaviour and weigh the costs and benefits of systems of protected  interests, which are an important dimension of citizenship. A systematic and comparative study of who gained access, first to apprenticeship and subsequently to membership of guilds, can build on much important research that has been undertaken over the past 25 years in various European countries.

In search of the poldermodel. Participation and representation in Dutch water boards in the pre-democratic era

Water management in the pre-democratic Netherlands was characterised by an intensive participation of the rural population. This ‘bottom up’ structure of water management has often been portrayed as an important explanation for the success of both water management as such, and of Dutch society more generally, but in fact very little is known about it. This project aims to establish to what extent stakeholders actually participated in water management, if, how and why this participation changed over time, and if the Netherlands were unique in this.

Nature or nurture? A search for the institutional and biological determinants of life

In the Nature or nurture? project we focus on the relation between socio-economic developments, household structures, life expectancy, life-events, socio-economic behavior, and care provisions for the elderly and whether the diversity in institutional solutions in early modern Northwestern-Europe could have increased the welfare of the elderly by analysing various historical sources and datasets.

  • Project leader: Prof. Tine De Moor
  • Participants: Dr Anita Boele, Dr Corry Gellatly, Dr Charlotte Störmer
  • Partner: Newcastle Ageing Institute; Clio-Infra
  • Duration: September 2013 - August 2017
  • Funding: NWO Vidi
Prof. dr. Els Stronks
Prof. Els Stronks delivering a lecture at the National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague