Economic and Social History research group

The Economic and Social History (ESH) research group conducts research on the economic, social and ecological developments in Global History, with a strong focus on the Atlantic area from 1500 up to the present.

Our focus areas:

  • Knowledge societies and economies
  • Urban transormations
  • Capitalism, culture and society
  • Trade networks
  • Labour and migration
  • Water, environment and nature conservation


Long-term comparisons
Our group conducts comparative research on the long-term developments in these areas. We ask questions such as: How do knowledge societies and economies come to be, and what is the relationship between this development and globalization? How do cities deal with worldwide economic changes? What effects does capitalism have on cultural development? How do trade networks, maritime entrepreneurship and labour migration contribute to globalization? How do societies react to drastic environmental changes, such as rising sea levels. How do large-scale economic, social and ecological developments affect heritage and collective memory?

NIeuw NederlandWallstreet

Institutional embedding

ESH researchers at  VU Amsterdam are members of the VU research institute CLUE+, and are involved in

Our teaching focuses on the period from 1500 up to the present. We work closely with the World History from an Anthropological Perspective research group in PhD projects, seminars, lectures on global history and topics such as migration, the circulation of ideas and commodity chains. We are involved in the specialization in Global Social History (15th-21st century) for Master’s students.
The professor of ESH teaches history students and is also active in the Economics minor for the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, as well as organizing a summer school, The Heart of Capitalism. Amsterdam and the Capitalist World, 1600-present

Research projects
In the Global History, Heritage and Memory cluster of the CLUE+ Research Institute, our researchers participate in the themes Global history and heritage in a (post)colonial world, Slavery and the slave trade, Globalization, urbanization and knowledge and Living with water.
In cooperation with the IISG and Leiden University, we also work on the NWO-financed Slaves, commodities and logistics project, which investigates the impact of slavery-based activities on the Dutch economy in the 18th and early 19th century.
Pepijn Brandon (VU and IISG), who has been awarded a VENI grant by NWO, is working on the Naval shipyards: Laboratories of capitalism project, which aims to discover the impact of the arms industry, state intervention and forced labour on industrial development in the Atlantic area in the 18th and 19th century.

Economic and Social History staff

Professors and other academic staff
Karel Davids, professor of Economic and Social History (FacHum & FE)
Ulbe Bosma, endowed professor of International and Comparative Social History (IISG)
Petra van Dam, endowed professor of Waterstaatsgeschiedenis (History of Water Management and Hydraulics) and assistant professor of Economic and Social History
Tijl Vanneste, assistant professor in Economic and Social History
Wybren Verstegen, assistant professor in Economic and Social History

Wantje Fritschy, emeritus endowed professor of History of government finances (Unger van Brerofonds)
Jan Lucassen, emeritus endowed professor of International and Comparative Social History (IISG)

Postdoc, PhD students and external PhD candidates

Pepijn Brandon
postdocNaval shipyards: Laboratories of capitalism
Karin Lurvink postdoc
Finance, insurance and logistics of slave-related
Ad AartsbuitenpromovendusKaapstad en het Indische Oceaannetwerk in de 18de eeuw
Thomas DresscherbuitenpromovendusZeemanschap in de 18de eeuw
Nicolàs de HilsterbuitenpromovendusNavigation on wood. Wooden navigational instruments in the Period 1590 – 1731
Gerrie LierensbuitenpromovendusHuman capital en de Nederlandse arbeidsmarkt na 1945
Ruud PaesiebuitenpromovendusKorendragers in Amsterdam in de 18de en 19de eeuw
Chris TeulingsbuitenpromovendusGildepenningen
Diederick WildemanbuitenpromovendusNederlandse ontdekkingsreizen in de 17de eeuw: denkkader en uitvoering
Pauline WittebolbuitenpromovendusAmsterdamse handelsnetwerken en Amerika in de 18de eeuw
Jan Willem de WijnbuitenpromovendusMigratie: het Aalsmeer model