Political History Research Group

The teaching given by and research by the Political History research group focuses on Dutch and international political history from 1815, focusing on the exercise of power by states and the legitimacy thereof, empires and international organisations. Particular attention is also paid to processes of inclusion and exclusion, as well as the continuing influence of the past on the present. Political History requires a perspective on the task historians have in contemporary society.  

The Historical Documentation Centre (HDC) is part of the research group, focusing on the interaction between religion, politics and culture in the Netherlands since 1800. The centre has the largest collection of protestant archives in Europe and operates in an international network with related institutions and research groups in Kampen, Nijmegen, Leuven, Edinburgh and Princeton (US).VS

Our areas of interest:

  • state formation - nationalism - ethnicity
  • empire - race - decolonisation
  • corruption - inequality - democracy
  • slavery - holocaust - memory
  • ideology - religion - race
  • theory of history - heritage - debate

Institutional embedding
The group is a member of the VU interfaculty research institute CLUE+ and the  Network Institute and Migration and Diversity Centre, and is also active in:


  • Lonneke Geerlings is a PhD student and is currently working on her dissertation with the (working) title Travelling Translator. Rosey Pool (1905-1971) a Dutch Cultural Mobiliser in the ‘Transatlantic Century’. She is interested in trans-atlantic American history, cultural mobility, life writing and Digital Humanities.  
  • Dienke Hondius is investigating the hiding of Jewish families in the Seocnd World War based on the locations known to have been used has hiding places. Together with students, these locations are mapped, with the aim of acquiring further knowledge about and insight into patterns and trends by combining as many sources of information as possible. The Mapping Slavery research project shows how the Netherlands and Europe still have close ties to their history of slave trading, leaving visible traces in many different places. 
  • Together with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam and foreign universities, Ronald Kroeze is participating in the EU-financed FP7 project about the history of anti-corruption.
  • Susan Legêne was the project leader of BiographyNET - From the Biography Portal of the Netherlands to a Virtual Society of People Past and Present. Research project The Netherlands E-science Center / VU / Huygens ING Institute. (October 2012-2016) and of Sites, Bodies and Stories - The Dynamics of Heritage Formation in Colonial and Postcolonial Indonesia and the Netherlands: an international NWO research project on archeology, human remains and wayang (material, immaterial and scientific heritage), imaging, citizenship and national identity (2008-2013).
  • Mariek Oprel has been a PhD student at VU University and the Germany Institute since 2015. Her research focuses on Germans throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands, who were declared enemy nationals after the Decree on Enemy Property (October 1944), and were subjected to collective exclusion after the Second World War due to their German citizenship.

The personal webpage of each researcher contains more information about their recently concluded and current research projects, publications and their role in teaching. For more information, you can also visit the research website Global History and Heritage in a Post-Colonial World and the HDC website

Our teaching focuses primarily on modern and contemporary history (the period starting from 1815). We provide BA and MA level courses. For Bachelor’s programmes, we teach courses about international and political history after 1815, imperialism, political corruption, democracy, slavery, theory of history, the holocaust, and religions and politics. At the MA level, we offer the specialisation in Politics and Souvereignty. In addition, we also teach courses that discuss sources and methods available to historians, such as egodocuments, images, monuments, archives, parliamentary papers, digital data and oral history.

In the media
Members of the research group frequently take part in public discussions and appear in the media. Wim Berkelaar, for example, is a regular commentator in the news program Dit is de dag op Radio 1 (in Dutch). George Harinck presented historical documentaries about Abraham Kuyper’s journey in Om de Oude Wereldzee and about the United States in Varia America for NPO2. Ronald Kroeze publishes articles about the relevance of his research into the history of corruption, anti-corruption and good governance in national newspapers such as NRC Handelsblad. Susan Legêne frequently writes pieces about current issues, such as the refugee crisis (Geen vluchtelingencrisis maar een Schengencrisis’, Ad Valvas 24-9-2015 and Waterstof 18-11-2015).

Political History staff

Hoogleraren en wetenschappelijke medewerkers
Prof. dr. Susan Legêne, Professor in Political History
Prof. dr. George Harinck, Professor in the History of Neocalvinism
Dr. Chiel van den Akker, Assistant Professor in Theory of History
Drs. Wim Berkelaar, Editor / researcher HDC
Dr. Dienke Hondius, Assistant Professor in Political History
Dr. Ronald Kroeze, Assistant Professor in Political History
Dr. Bettine Siertsema, Holocaust researcher
Dr. Bart Wallet, Assistant Professor, Director of the Historical Documentation Centre for Dutch Protestantism (HDC)

Endowed Professors
Dr. Maarten Doorman
, Endowed Professor in Historical culture of Germany: philosophy, art and literature, based in the Germany Institute Amsterdam.
emptyDr. Wim Hupperetz, Endowed Professor in Dutch Cultural History, especially in material culture studies. Endowed by the Royal Dutch Society of Antiquities.

PhD candidates and external PhDs
Christoph van den Belt MA, Geschiedenis van christelijke pers in een seculiere samenleving
Tjalling Bouma MA, Promovendus Promotiebeurs Leraren (NWO), De Verenigde Staten van Indonesië 1941-1950. Opkomst en ondergang van een federale staat.
Maria Cornou MA, Formative Worship in Emerging Protestantism in Argentina, 1867-1930
Lonneke Geerlings MA, Programma Promoveren in de Geesteswetenschappen (NWO), Travelling translator. Rosey Pool (1905-1971) a Dutch cultural mobiliser in the ‘transatlantic century’
Miel Groten MA, NWO-funded PhD project Imperial places. Built manifestations of imperial culture in Europe, 1815-1945
Drs. Marja van Heese, UNESCO’s cultural conventions in times of transition and conflict
Riedwaan Moosage MA, SAVUSA-promovendus, Missing-ness, History and Apartheid-Era Disappearances
Widya Fitria Ningsih MA, LPDP-promovendus, Engaged women: Citizenship, Mobility and Political Encounters in the decolonization Process and Cold War Indonesia, 1940s-1980s
Marieke Oprel MA, Programma Promoveren in de Geesteswetenschappen (NWO), Germans as enemy citizens. Dutch citizenship policies towards German nationals in the aftermath of the Second World War (1944-1967) 
Nicky Rousseau MA, SAVUSA-promovendus, The truth body: violence and the body in the archives of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
Drs. Tamme Spoelstra, Geschiedenis van het gereformeerd-vrijgemaakt onderwijs