Previous Projects

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. 

ARTECHNE - Technique in the Arts: Concepts, Practices, Expertise, 1500-1900

How do artists master their art? Considering ‘technique’ as a textual, material and social practice, this project offers a long-term history of the theory and practice of the study of ‘technique’ in the visual and decorative arts between 1500 and 1950. It creates a database of recipes and techniques, an online historical semantic map of ‘technique’ and experimentally reconstructs historical recipes to open the black box of the transmission of technique in the visual and decorative arts.

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 external link
  • Participants: Daniel Curtis, Dr Tim Soens, Dr Eline van Onacker, Bram van Besouw
  • Duration: 2014-2019
  • Funding: European Research Council / ERC Advanced Grant
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.

  • Project leader: Prof. Karl Kügle external link
  • 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. The key question of the project is: how European was popular print culture in the period 1450-1900? 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 external link
  • Members: Dr Katell Lavéant; Dr Habil. Rita Schlusemann; Dr Helwi Blom
  • Duration: 2016-2018
  • Funding: NWO Internationalisation
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
  • Duration: 2016-2017
  • Funding: NWO Alfa Meerwaarde 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
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
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.

  • Project members UU: Prof. Wieger Bakker, Prof. Trudie Knijn, Prof. Frans Pennings, Prof. Maarten Prak, Ruben Schalk MA, Prof. Sybe de Vries, Prof. Frans van Waarden
  • Duration: 2013-2017
  • Funding: European Commission / Seventh Framework Programme
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.

  • Principal investigators: Prof. Maarten Prak, Dr Milja van Tielhof
  • Duration: 2011-2016
  • Funding: NWO

In the Clio Infra project, various institutes and scientists worked together to answer questions surrounding global economic growth and inequality. Through a set of interconnected databases containing worldwide data on social, economic, and institutional indicators for the past five centuries (with special attention to the past 200 years),  indicators allowed research into long-term development of worldwide economic growth and inequality.

A Collaboratory for the Study of Reading and the Circulation of Ideas in Early Modern Europe: A Digital Platform for Teaching and Research

This project was meant to develop a virtual research environment (or collaboratory) and publication platform for a young and growing field in cultural history: the study of early modern reading practices. The collaborators collect and enhance evidence of how readers used their books to build knowledge and assimilate ideas.

  • Project members: Prof. Els Stronks, prof. Arnoud Visser
  • Duration: 2011 - 2014
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
CODL: An International Network Studying the Circulation of Dutch Literature

Modern research into Dutch literary culture of the past and the present requires a transnational approach. CODL (2012-2015) will help to create favourable conditions for this approach. The pilot Beatrijs Internationaal (2009-2011) has created a dynamics of cooperation and exchange in the increasingly international field of Dutch Studies. With a new project we want to seize this momentum in order to set up a large scale European research project, to be executed within an international research network. This new project will deal with the question how literary texts from a relatively small language area, such as that of Dutch, circulate internationally in different periods. At the same time it will look at the possibilities and difficulties of research on international cultural transfer.

  • Project members UU: Prof. Els Stronks
  • External project members (project leaders): Dr O. Réthelyi (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Dr T. van Kalmthout (Huygens ING), Prof. E. Brems (HUB KULeuven)
  • Duration: 2012 - 2015
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
Fault line 1700: Early Enlightenment Conversations on Religion and the State

How did accepted views on the true nature of religion, and on its proper relation to the state, assume a new shape around 1700? This project studies how the early Enlightenment produced a radical rethinking of ‘true religion’, in a time when societal authorities generally upheld the orthodoxies of the established churches, and discouraged open debate on the foundations of their legitimacy.

  • Principal investigators: Dr Jo Spaans and Prof. Wiep van Bunge (EUR)
  • Project members: Dr Jetze Touber, Dr Henri Krop (EUR), Trudelien van ‘t Hof, Frank Daudeij (EUR)
  • Partner: Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Duration: 2010 - 2015
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
“United we stand”. The dynamics and consequences of institutions for collective action in pre-industrial Europe

Europe’s economic development in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, continues to fascinate scholars. In recent debates, institutionalised forms of collective action have been put forward as a key feature of Europe’s precocious development. This project examines that connection between institutions and economic development in detail.

  • Principal investigator: Prof. Tine de Moor
  • Duration: 2010 - 2014
  • Funded by the European Research Committee
Popularisation and Media Strategies (1700-1900)

This project analysed the process of selection and adaptation in Dutch popular literature during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Research for this project was centred on songs and catchpenny prints, which can be considered as the main mass media of the past. The aim was to answer the question of how the process of selection and adaptation in songs and catchpenny prints interacted with the motives and strategies of producers, distributors and consumers. As a result of the project, an exhibition was organised in cooperation with the National Library of the Netherlands: 'Sterke Verhalen' ('Strong Stories').

  • Principal investigators: Dr Jeroen Salman and Prof. Louis Grijp
  • Duration: 2010 - 2014
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) - Cultural Dynamics
EMIT-X: Early-Modern Image and Text eXchange

In the Early Modern period images and texts were thought of as closely related. The Emblem Project Utrecht (EPU) digitised Dutch emblems books. Other corpora were published by groups elsewhere in Europe and the US. In a community effort coordinated in the Open Emblem Group, an exchange format has been designed to facilitate the aggregation of material from individual projects.

Dutch Songs Online

In the Dutch Song Database, nearly 170.000 songs are made digitally available. The songs date from the Middle Ages to the twentieth centry. The source of every song is indicated. In some cases, it is possible to view the entire texts of the song, or to listen to the melody or an audio fragment.

Cultural transmission and artistic exchanges in the Low Countries, 1572-1672. Mobility of artists, works of art and artistic knowledge

In the early modern period, the Low Countries were a leading region in terms of innovation in the visual arts. Exponentially-growing demand gave rise to a viable and sophisticated art market. This research project explained these developments from a fresh perspective.

  • Principal investigator: Dr Karolien de Clippel
  • Duration: 2009 - 2013
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
The Colonial Origins of Inequality: A Comparative Analysis of Fiscal Regimes in Asia, Africa and the New World, 1492-2000

There exists a broad consensus in the literature that global economic inequality is ultimately rooted in institutional differences. But to what extent did colonial institutions vary across colonies? And in what ways did colonial institutions pre-condition long run economic development, if they did at all? A comparative analysis of fiscal regimes offers an excellent opportunity to obtain new answers to these longstanding questions.

  • Principal investigator: Prof. Ewout Frankema
  • Duration: 2009 - 2012
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
The evolution of financial markets in pre-industrial Europe

This project explored why sophisticated capital markets emerge in some economies, but not in others. It proposes a comparative analysis of the evolution of financial markets in pre-industrial Europe (1500-1800), because this evolution provides us with an illuminating contrast. Some countries successfully evolved from a largely self-sufficient agricultural society into a modern economy with high levels of investment in agriculture, industry, and services. In these countries sophisticated capital markets developed very early on.

  • Principal investigators: Prof. Oscar Gelderblom; dr. Joost Jonker
  • Duration: 2006 - 2012
  • Funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the European Science Foundation (ESF)