Early Modern History (1500-1800) covers a crucial time in European as well as global history. It is of particular importance for the Netherlands which entered the global stage in this period. Perceptions of the world and human society underwent dramatic changes including a renewed interest in Classical Antiquity and its values and a more empirically based understanding of nature. State formation, Reformations and confessionalization, new concepts of legitimate authority, the commercial revolution and the rise of new academic disciplines which we now call the natural sciences are key characteristics of the period. Moreover, early modern European culture was shaped by a need for peaceful co-existence among groups holding different religious and political ideals, and developed a new appreciation of plural, even in a certain sense tolerant, societies. Fundamental principles of modern society, such as the idea of the rule of law (the ‘Rechtsstaat’), respect for minorities and the separation of church and state, developed in this period. The contexts in which such crucial phenomena emerged tell us much about how they are understood and practiced today. The Early Modern History section is concerned with these important topics in its teaching and research programmes.
Our members have particular expertise in the fields of early modern state formation and political culture, with a special focus on the relations between politics and the writing of history, politics and the press, diplomacy and international legal history. We have a specialism in gender studies, global cultural encounters, commercial and maritime history, and the history of science and medicine. Individual research interests can be accessed via the academic staff pages (see also Research). We welcome PhD students with interests in these fields.
We have a regular research seminar where PhD students, members of staff and invited academics present their research and we also organize the interdisciplinary Rudolf Agricola Seminar.
The section’s staff participate in (among others) the Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG), the Centre for Gender Studies, the Kossmann Institute, the N.W. Posthumus Institute, The Netherlands Institute in Saint-Petersburg, and the Flemish-Dutch Society for Early Modern History. We also collaborate with the Fryske Akademy (Frisian Academy, Leeuwarden), Tresoar (Frisian Historical and Literary Centre, Leeuwarden), the Danish National Archives (Copenhagen) and with other international research institutes.
What sort of career opportunities does the study of Early Modern History offer? Our alumni can be found in a variety of careers in politics, journalism, publishing, government, or the cultural and business sectors. Recent graduates also work in museums, libraries and archives. Naturally many alumni acquire positions in secondary (via the Educatieve Master) or higher education and research (via the Research Master Classical, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, or the Master History Today).
Groningen is a particularly attractive place to study Early Modern Dutch History since in this period the Dutch Republic transformed itself into a global power. The rich archives from this period offer exciting and valuable opportunities for exploring the place of the Dutch Republic in the international scene. Our programme provides specialised training in reading, appreciating and contextualising this era’s fascinating heritage. Historical research offers experience in organising and interpreting extensive bodies of material and in incorporating these into coherent texts – necessary and valuable skills in any career. Historians with an appreciation for more distant yet still relevant past can approach present challenges with greater perspective and analytical insight.
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