RUG Conference: The Politics of Paper in the Early Modern World

Groningen, 9-10 June 2016

This two-day conference seeks to bring together scholars and paper experts working across a range of disciplines and geographic areas who are interested in the ways in which paper supported, shaped, or otherwise influenced practices of politics and political communications in the period ca.1350-ca.1800. It aims to sketch a more integral picture of the ways in which paper permitted early modern politics and political communications to unfold.

Keynote speakers include: Prof. Lothar Muller, Prof. Andrew Pettegree, Prof. Jonathan Bloom, and Prof. Jacob Soll.



Comments Off on RUG Conference: The Politics of Paper in the Early Modern World

Filed under Other events

Political Transformations in the Batavian Republic (1750-1850) – Joris Oddens

2 May, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

Between 1750 and 1830 the Dutch state developed from an oligarchic republic to an enlightened autocratic monarchy via a short-lasted experiment with representative democracy. During this period, there was an ongoing debate about the right to petition. Political actors and opinion makers addressed the questions to what and whom this right extended and what it meant to have such a right. While theorists of the different types of government had sharply contrasting views on the place of the people in the political process, ideas about petitioning remained remarkably stable.

Dr Joris Oddens works in the Institute for History at the University of Leiden. His areas of expertise include the history of the Enlightenment and the history of the Batavian Republic. His current research project is ‘The Primacy of Local Belonging: Private Papers, Petitioning, and Periodical Press’ which is part of the NWO Free Competition Programme ‘The Persistence of Civic Identities in the Netherlands, 1747-1848’.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agricola Lectures

Double Seminar: Thomas Aquinas as ‘Alter Christus’| Giant Bible Frontispieces and the Hermeneutics of Reading

25 April, 16:00-17:30, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

St Thomas Aquinas: an ‘alter Christus’?   –  Marika Räsänen, University of Turku

Giant Bible Frontispieces and the Hermeneutics of Reading: Some Observations  –  Teemu Immonen (University of Turku)

Dr Marika Räsänen is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Turku. Her lecture proposes a new reading of the image of Thomas Aquinas based on the 14th- and 15th-century hagiographical, liturgical and iconographical sources. This reading suggests that Thomas was represented as a special follower of Christ, an alter Christus, both in the traditional way through hagiographical topoi, and in a more ‘personal’ way as the composer of the texts of Corpus Christi liturgy and even through the fate of his own corpse.

Dr Teemu Immonen is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Turku. His lecture addresses  the 11th-century church reform that gave birth to a particular form of Bible manuscript called Giant Bibles. Several central Italian examples of the genre include a prominent Creation frontispiece before the text of Genesis. Despite the wide scholarly interest that the frontispieces have generated, little attention has been paid to the function of the pictures at the beginning of the biblical text. The paper discusses what these images tell us about the attitudes of their makers towards the book, i.e. Bible, and more specifically towards the reading of the Bible. It addresses the question of the manner in which the images participate in the process of interpreting the text.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agricola Lectures

Sebastain Castellio: Hero of Modern Religious Tolerance? – Hans Martin Kirn

SebastianCastellio.jpg4 April, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

In his famous struggle for religious tolerance the French reformed theologian and opponent of Calvin, S. Castellio (1515-1563), focussed on the solution of intra-Christian conflicts and the execution of heretics. However, widely overlooked, references to Jews and Judaism (and also to Islam) played an important role in his argumentation. How did Castellio refer to biblical Judaism? What was his strategy of ‘Judaizing the heretics’? What was the relation with the ‘heretization of the Jews’ in Late Medieval times? These and other questions about religious tolerance in the Reformation period will be discussed.

Hans-Martin Kirn is Professor of Church History at the Protestant Theological University. His research is focused on the history of Central and Western European Protestantism  between the 16th and the 18th centuries.


Filed under Agricola Lectures

Ship and Iterate: Colonialism as a Recursive Process – Mark Thompson


Time: 16:00. Venue: Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

This paper argues that colonialism is a recursive process.  That is, to draw from the concept of recursion in computer science, colonialism resembles a process in which the output of a function becomes the input of the next iteration of the function.  In this case, colonialism is also dynamic (and often chaotic) so that with each iteration the successive outcomes (and the inputs) are different, sometimes wildly so.  Yet the recursion does not entirely efface itself after each iteration—traces remain of previous forms.  And because colonialism is at once a serial process (one settlement follows another), a parallel process (colonies develop simultaneously), and a networked process (colonies influence one another)—traces are left behind not only from previous colonies and previous iterations of a colony but also from previous iterations of other colonies.

This model runs against important models of colonization for early modern British America in which “virgin land” colonization appears as the typical process of development.  Although historians long ago showed that European colonization had roots in Old World experiences, the sense persists that colonization is culturally new.  Not only that, it is new again and again—it is new each time it begins in a new place.  But as the rage for interconnectivity has swept through history as well as all else in modern culture, historians have begun to show that colonies have had strong connections to one another not just at later stages of development but at earlier ones, too.  We begin to see that all colonies are colonies of colonies.

Dr Mark Thompson is a senior lecturer at the Department of American Studies at the University of Groningen. He recently published The Contest for the Delaware Valley: Allegiance, Identity, and Empire in the Seventeenth Century (Louisiana State University Press, 2013).

Leave a comment

Filed under Agricola Lectures

Marking Books, Mutilating Books

Centre for Historical Studies Lecture

February 8th, 16:00 in Academy Building A3

Speaker: Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser is professor of book studies at the University of Münster. She recently published Book Gifts and Cultural Networks from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century (2015) with co-editor Kerstin Meyer-Bialk.
Marking Books

Leave a comment

Filed under Other events, Uncategorized

Intersubjectivity in Early Modern Philosophy: A Case Study on Spinoza’s Philosophy of Mind – Martin Lenz

1 February, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

In this paper, I would like to defend the claim that Spinoza endorses an intersubjective or, more precisely, an interactionist view of the mind. What does this mean? The basic assumption of such a view is that our minds do not cognize things prior to our relation to others. This means that the content of our thoughts is determined by our mind’s relation to other minds.

But why should you care whether Spinoza held such a view? Like most other early modern philosophers, Spinoza is portrayed as an individualist or subjectivist who adheres to the Cartesian view of the mind as a private place with private mental states. On this reading, early modern philosophy is pervaded by the idea that thinking requires nothing beyond an individual mind, a self that thinks; indeed, the cogito is the starting point for building up true knowledge. In contrast to this reading, I would like to show that quite a number of early modern authors endorsed an intersubjectivist view of the mind, a view that would deny the sufficiency of a subjective cogito. In this paper, I will confine myself to Spinoza who, as I see it, defends an intersubjective view that is rooted in his metaphysics, defining the individual by means of interrelations to others.

Prof. Martin Lenz is the chair of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. He works in the area of medieval and early modern philosophy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agricola Lectures

Jerome and the Hebraica Veritas: Or, How the Hebrew Bible became a Christian Book – Frans van Liere

21 January, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 123

The idea of the Hebraica Veritas is the belief that the Hebrew Bible, as it was transmitted in rabbinical circles in the first centuries of the Common Era, was the “original” Old Testament text. As obvious as this may seem to modern biblical scholars, we have to appreciate how novel this idea was when the church father Jerome first introduced it in the church of Late Antiquity, when Greek versions and their Latin translations were regarded as the “common versions”. The idea meant that, to recover the original text, one needed to turn to the Jews, who were guardians both of the sacred text itself and of the language in which it was written. Medieval exegetes inherited this paradoxical idea, and adapted it to the specific circumstances of the Christian middle ages. It shaped Christian conceptions of textual authority, and influenced Christian attitudes towards the Jews of their own time. Through the steady growth of medieval Christian Hebraism, one could indeed say that by the end of the Middle Ages, not only had the idea of Hebraica Veritas triumphed, but, indeed, the Hebrew Bible had become a Christian book.

Prof. Frans van Liere is the director of medieval studies at Calvin College. His An Introduction to the Medieval Bible was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agricola Lectures

Call for Papers: “The Politics of Paper in the Early Modern World”

Groningen, The Netherlands, 9-10 June 2016

Paper is today so ubiquitous that we often overlook it. Yet paper was once a brand-new communications technology and political tool that fundamentally influenced early modern political life in myriad ways. Paper arrived in Europe via China and the Muslim Mediterranean by the twelfth century. By the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, as papermaking spread across Europe, the revolutionary effects of paper on European politics and political communications were becoming strikingly visible.

This two-day conference seeks to bring together scholars and paper experts working across a range of disciplines and geographic areas who are interested in the ways in which paper supported, shaped, or otherwise influenced practices of politics and political communications in the period ca.1350-ca.1800. It aims to sketch a more integral picture of paper as a material artifact and political communications technology around which coherent historical practices developed. To do so, it traces the ‘life-cycle’ of early modern ‘political’ paper across four

I. Paper as politically-desired manufacture, trade commodity and circulating material artifact. Early modern political actors were voracious consumers of paper. While a rich technical literature exists on paper’s manufacture, the early modern rag- and paper trades remain largely unexamined, despite their economic and political importance. What material possibilities, constraints, and constellations emerge in early modern political practices when we focus on paper as commodity and circulating material artifact?

II. Paper in the emergence of epistolary cultures, postal services, and the news. With the spread of affordable paper across Europe by about 1460, new opportunities and methods opened for acquiring, accessing, and transmitting political information. How did paper affect emerging early modern cultures and practices of political letter-writing? What role did paper play in the early modern development of postal services and postal infrastructures? How did paper influence forms, functions, and practices of transmitting the news, or of news-cultures?

III. Paper as a tool of governance, diplomacy, and political information management. The often daily paper-borne correspondence between European rulers and their officials inundated chancelleries and swamped rulers, most famously in the case of ‘el rey papelero’ Philip II of Spain. How did the coming of paper (re-)shape practices of political representation, diplomacy, politics and governance? In what ways did paper alter routines of political decision making, record-keeping and information management?

IV. Paper as impulse for new forms of archiving and new archival practices. The early modern era saw heavy investment in archives and archival spaces across Europe, as well as wide-ranging innovation in archiving practices — in part to manage the burgeoning spate of paper. How did the rise of paper as medium for political record-keeping and governance affect early modern archives and archival practices? What practices and discourses developed around the archiving of political paper(s), and with what consequences for their use?

Each theme will be explored through a set of parallel panels and a plenary lecture. Confirmed keynote speakers include:
– Lothar Müller (Humboldt-Universität/Süddeutsche Zeitung);
– Jonathan Bloom (Boston College/Virginia Commonwealth University);
– Andrew Pettegree (University of St Andrews); and
– Jacob Soll (University of Southern California).
The language of the conference is English. A peer-reviewed publication is planned.

Submissions Guidelines
We welcome proposals for 20-minute, English-language papers related to one or more of the conference’s four themes. Submissions with a comparative or theoretical-historical bent are also welcomed, as are submissions from scholars working on paper in political life outside of Europe. Such topics might include paper in societies where it was present in political life for far longer (e.g., China and South Asia; the (Islamic) Middle East) or the role of paper in colonial politics and societies. Proposals should include a preliminary title for your paper; an abstract of 250-300 words; a CV of no more than 1 page; contact information, including any institutional affiliation. Submit your proposals to by Friday, 29 January 2016. Successful applicants will be notified by email in mid-February.

Participants are expected to organize and cover the costs for their own travel and accommodations, and are advised of a registration fee of €120 (€75 for students). The fee covers lunches and coffees during the conference, as well as the conference dinner on 10 June and an excursion to a paper mill (est. 1692) on 11 June. The conference organizers have applied for additional funding with which they hope to be able to reduce the fees. For questions please contact the conference organizers at, or visit the conference website, or the conference Facebook page,

Conference Organizers
This conference is organized by Dr. Megan K. Williams (University of Groningen) in conjunction with her research project ‘Paper Princes: Paper in Early Modern Diplomacy and Statecraft’, which is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Read more about the project at The organizational team also includes Frank Birkenholz, MA (University of Groningen); Jeroen Claassens, MA-student (University of Groningen); Johanna Feenstra, MA-student (University of Groningen); and Quinten Somsen, MA-student (University of Leiden). The conference organizers are grateful for financial and material support from the NWO and the University of Groningen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other events

Symposium for Justin Kroesen

Justin is moving from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies to a position in Bergen (Norway) in 2016.

Time: Friday 18 December 2015, 10.00-13.00. Lunch at 13:00.

Venue: Zittingzaal, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38

10.00-10.30 Inloop met koffie/thee
10.30-10.40 Opening door Dr. Sipco Vellenga
10.40-11.10 Dr. Kees van der Ploeg, Het beeld op eigen kracht? Van Joachim de Fiore tot The Wizard of Oz
11.10-11.25 koffie/thee
11.25-11.55 Dr. Jan Luth, Van oordeel naar troost. Het Requiem en Lutherse begrafenismuziek
11.55-12.25 Prof. Dr. Sible de Blaauw, Wierook rond de kansel in de Gouden Eeuw
Herinneringen aan het katholieke verleden van de Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam
12.25-12.30 korte pauze
12.30-13.00 Toespraken van prof. dr. Christoph Jedan, Dhr. Peter Breukink, Mw. Arianne Anker

Opgave voor 11 december bij:
Info bij: Dr. Mathilde van Dijk,

Leave a comment

Filed under Other events