“Over the past two hundred years, freedom was transformed from an emancipatory ideal that was used to challenge the rule of political and economic elites, into a slogan primarily mobilized to protect the interests of the privileged few.”

Research Focus: modern history, political history, intellectual history

Annelien de Dijn is Professor of Modern Political History and chair of the Political History Department at Utrecht University. Her research focuses on the history of political thought in Europe and in the United States from 1700 to the present day. 

Freedom: an unruly history

De Dijn’s first book, French Political Thought, Montesquieu to Tocqueville: Liberty in a Levelled Society was published by Cambridge University Press in 2008 (paperback edition October 2011). Recently, her second book, Freedom: An Unruly History (Harvard University Press), explores the changing meaning of Herodotus' freedom to the present.

In her book De Dijn discusses 25 centuries of thinking about freedom in Europe and the United States. In antiquity 'being free' was mainly a struggle for self-government, but American, French and also Dutch counter-revolutionaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries proposed a new concept of freedom. The more democratic and inclusive the state, the louder the call among conservative thinkers to protect a privileged minority from the state - in the name of freedom.


Professor of Modern Political History
Inaugural lecture date