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Early Modern History
Atlas Blaeu
Atlas Blaeu

Early Modern History (1500-1800) covers a crucial time in European as well as global history. It is of particular importance for the Netherlands, an intensive player as trader and warrior on a global scale. Perceptions of the world and human society underwent dramatic changes including a renewed interest in Classical Antiquity 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 experimental natural philosophy 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, which laid the basis for new ideas of religious toleration. Fundamental principles of modern society, such as the idea of the rule of law (the ‘Rechtsstaat’), respect for minorities, the idea of laws of nature, 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 colleagues 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 media, diplomacy and international legal history. In addition, the section studies religious conflict and policies of reconciliation in the aftermath of the Wars of Religion. Other focus points include the Dutch overseas. Research using the archives of the VOC and the WIC showcase the connectedness between violence and trade, including those in enslaved peoples in the Indian Ocean and Atlantic world. Research on trading activities demonstrates how and why trade laid the foundations for colonialism. We have a specialism in gender studies, migration history and border studies, global cultural encounters, commercial history, and the history of science, medicine, sexuality, health and wellbeing. 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. 

The section’s staff participate in (among others) the Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG), the Centre for Gender Studies, the Groningen Centre for Health and Humanities, the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health, History, Health, Healing: the Dutch academic network for medical history, the Huizinga Institute,  the N.W. Posthumus Institute, and the Flemish-Dutch Society for Early Modern History. We also collaborate with Fryske Akademy (Frisian Academy, Leeuwarden), Tresoar (Literature museum, archive and library Friesland, Leeuwarden), the Johannes à Lasco Bibliothek in Emden (Germany), the European University Institute (Florence) and 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 Educational Master) or higher education and research (via the Research Master Classical, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, or the Master History).

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 a more distant yet still relevant past can approach present challenges with greater perspective and analytical insight.

Last modified:13 December 2023 2.27 p.m.
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