Cultural history and Religious history research group

The teaching and research in our research group is focused on cultural and religious history. By combining various fields, source types and methods, we work to develop new insights into historical processes, ideas and practices. This can be achieved through in-depth research, but you can also choose for a long-term perspective, examining the shaping of canons and the history of knowledge and science. We aim to problematize traditional breakpoints, for instance between the Middle ages and Early Modern Times, or between religion and science, politics and emotions, economy and culture. Long-term research of cultural history also challenges us to develop and employ innovative digital research methods.

Our focus areas:

  • Religion - ritual - world view
  • Science - knowledge - education 
  • Emotions - senses - body
  • Politics - biography - leadership
  • Culture - economy - ecology


  • Long-term research
  • Digital Humanities – text, sentiment & concept mining, Linked Data, 3D modelling
  • Reconstruction – historical smells, theater performances
  • Cooperation with private & public partners

Institutional embedding:
The research group is part of VU’s interfaculty research institutes CLUE+ and the Network Institute, and is an active member of:


BeursOur teaching focuses primarily on the period between 1300 and 1850, but PhD candidates, bachelor’s and (research) master’s students can also approach us for teaching and supervision regarding culture, religion, power, knowledge, emotion, senses and digital methods. For MA History students we provide specializations in Cultures of Knowledge and Religion and Society from Antiquity up to Today.

Research projects

The group has been very successful in attracting research funding from (inter)national scientific organizations, as well as private and public foundations, institutes and companies. Current projects include:

  • Fred van Lieburg and Maarten Wisse (Faculty of Theology) coordinate the NWO internationalization project ‘European Bible Belts: understanding strong religion, social cohesion and cultural integration in Europe’. He is working on a project about the Synod of Dordrecht as an international event, commissioned by the Dordrechts Museum, as well as coordinating a crowdsourcing project about the Popular petition of 1878 for the Kuyperfonds.
  • In the creative industries project In Search of Scents Lost (NWO), Caro Verbeek works together with International Flavors and Fragrances and the Rijksmuseum in order to revive the Avant-Garde history of scents.
  • Michel van Duijnen is studying the imageering techniques of early-modern violence in Imagineering-Violence (FWO/NWO).
  • Martha Visscher – Houweling is studying the protestant press with new digital techniques (Erdee Media Group) in the Digibron project and is working on an educational pilot Nederlab (Meertens Institute).
  • In Embodied Emotions, Leemans and Kuijpers developed a computer model (HEEM) that, on the long term, can trace (bodily) emotional expressions in old Dutch texts (Escience). Other current Digital Humanities projects include: QuPiD2 (AAA Data Science) and Visualizing Uncertainty (EScience).
  • Leemans and Dijksterhuis lead research groups in the international research project Global Knowledge Society.
  • Ab Flipse works on a biographical project about the biologist Jan Lever (1922-2010)

Cultural history and Religious history Staff members

Professors and academic staff

Endowed professor

Emeritus Professors

  • W. Frijhoff, emeritus professor of Early-modern History
  • K. Goudriaan, emeritus professor of Medieval History
  • G.J. Schutte, emeritus special professor of the History of Dutch Protestantism


  • Peter Bakker, 'De stadskronieken van Kampen' (Promotor: K. Goudriaan)
  • Michel van Duijnen - Promovendus ITEMP/Violence (FWO-NWO) - (Promotores: I. Leemans & F.W. Korsten - Leiden & K. van der Haven - Gent)
  • Ronald van Gelder, Een wijk op palen. Vergeten Erfgoed in Diemen.
  • Jan Haverkate, 'Framing politics in public debates: the Overijssel pamphlet wars of the 17th century' (Promotores: I. Leemans & D. Onnekink, Utrecht University)
  • Saskia Leupen, De kloosters van de cellebroeders en -zusters in de Noordelijke Nederlanden tot aan de Reformatie (Promotor: K. Goudriaan)
  • Mirella Marini, 'Religion, identity and loyality in the Bourgundian Netherlands' (Promotores: L. Duerloo- Antwerpen & I. Leemans)
  • Amber Oomen-Delhaye, Promovendus Promotiebeurs Leraren (NWO) - ‘Classical heroes on the Dutch stage and in the political arena, 1770-1800’ (Promotores: I. Leemans & K. van der Haven - Gent)
  • Fieke Smitskamp, ‘Sound patterns and emotions in Early Modern Dutch Theatre Plays' (Promotores: I. Leemans & K. van Dalen Oskam, Huygens ING & UvA)
  • Caro Verbeek, Promovendus Creative Industries - ‘In Search of Scents Lost’ (NWO) - website  (Promotores: I. Leemans & K. Kwastek & F. Scholten)
  • Cor de Vries, Promovendus Promotiebeurs Leraren (NWO) - ‘The sensitive citizen. Johannes Lublink jr. (1736-1816) and his strive for civil society’. (Promotores: I. Leemans & G.J. Johannes, Universiteit Utrecht)
  • Martha Visscher-Houweling, Promovendus Digibron - 'Ontwikkelingen in het orthodox-protestantisme onder de digitale loep' (Promotores: F. van Lieburg & E. Stronks)
  • Wouter de Vries, Promovendus Imagining Earth - Prints as Evidence in Natural Philosophy, 1650-1750
  • Jos de Weerd, Promovendus Promotiebeurs Leraren (NWO) - ‘De reformatie op de Veluwe. Politieke en religieuze veranderingen in de 16e eeuw’. (Promotores: F. van Lieburg en K. Goudriaan)