Dr. Dirk van Miert

Associate Professor
Cultural History
Cultural History


Van Miert is director of an ERC Consolidator project sponsored by the European Research Council. With a team of two PhD students and two postdocs he conducts research into the ideal of sharing knowledge within the so-called Republic of Letters - the social network of early modern scholars and scientists.

As a research fellow, Van Miert has contributed to the project "Thinking Classified. Structuring the World of Ideas around 1800" (Paul Ziche). Previously, he edited, together with Paul Botley and under supervision of Anthony Grafton, a critical edition in 8 vols of the complete correspondence of Joseph Scaliger (2012). He published a number of monographs, articles and volumes on Isaac Vossius (2012), Hadrianus Junius (2011), and the Amsterdams Athenaeum Illustre (2005; 2009). In 2013 a volume appeared on observations in early modern letters, in 2017 a co-edited volume on biblical criticism in the Dutch Golden Age (Oxford University Press) and in 2018 his monograph on the emancipation of biblical philology in the Dutch 17th apparead, also with OUP. For access to dozens of this articles see his academia.edu page.

Thinking Classified: http://www.nwo.nl/onderzoek-en-resultaten/onderzoeksprojecten/15/2300176615.html

Biblical Criticism and Secularisation: http://www.huygens.knaw.nl/en/bijbelkritiek-en-secularisatie/

The Correspondence of Scaliger: http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/research/projects/scaliger/

Isaac Vossius: http://www.brill.com/isaac-vossius-1618-1689-between-science-and-scholarship

Amsterdam Athenaeum Illustre: http://cf.hum.uva.nl/nhl/samenvatting_vanMiert.htm

and http://www.brill.com/humanism-age-science

Hadrianus Junius: http://www.oudhoorn.nl/winkel/item.php?id=176

and: http://www.brill.com/kaleidoscopic-scholarship-hadrianus-junius-1511-1575


Completed Projects
SKILLNET: Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary NETworks. The Republic of Letters as a pan-European Knowledge Society 01.07.2017 to 01.07.2022
General project description

The idea of sharing knowledge

Open Science and Open Access are hotly debated today in the academic world. Most scholars are in favour of sharing their knowledge freely, even if there is no guarantee that they will get something in return. Apparently they assume that there is some greater good involved in sharing knowledge. Where does this ideal of knowledge come from? 

The Republic of Letters

The project Sharing Knowledge In Learned and Literary NETworks - The Republic of Letters as a pan-European Knowledge Society (SKILLNET) starts from the idea that the ideal of sharing knowledge is a legacy of a bottom-up social network of scholars and scientists. These scholars transcended religious, political and linguistic boundaries through their correspondence with one another. From about 1500 to around 1800, the ‘citizens’ of this European knowledge-based civil society referred to their own community as the ‘Republic of Letters’. The people who constituted this ‘Republic’ have left behind hundreds of thousands of letters. Through these we can analyse how the Republic of Letters functioned as a ‘knowledge commons’: a social network devoted to the production and management of knowledge as a common property resource that grows as more people start using it. The ideal of sharing knowledge proved so powerful that even after the demise of the Republic of Letters around 1800, this ‘Republic’ continued to be a historical model of tolerance and exchange for the global intellectual and academic community. Sharing knowledge is part of the moral DNA of the modern scientific community.

Digital analysis of social networks and texts over a long period of time

Thanks to an unprecedented body of digital data about the letters, SKILLNET electronically unravels the social structure (size, density, aggregation-level) of the huge networks of the Republic of Letters. This analysis will allows to study the lines of communication over a long period of time. Van Miert and his team will also digitally mine large bodies of texts to trace changes in the way the citizens of the Republic of Letters related to the ideal of sharing knowledge and to the methods they used to communicate this ideal to future generations.

Although the Republic of Letters in practice witnessed constant internal controversies, Van Miert hopes to show that the pre-modern era saw the first attempt to overcome such troubles and create an internationalist cultural identity – an identity underscored not by capitalizing on knowledge but by sharing it.

EU grant European Research Council
Thinking classified: Structuring the world of ideas around 1800 01.10.2013 to 01.07.2017
Co-promotor & Researcher
NWO grant
Project members UU