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PhD Core Course 1: Positioning and designing your research

Course description

During CC1 PhD candidates who have just started their project are introduced to the broad field of professional cultural history. In six sessions, they meet their peers and various inspiring experts to build their national network and reflect on the methods, theories and practices in the field, on interdisciplinarity, and the relevance of their own work. They learn to better position their project in a highly interdisciplinary environment, and to access experts and expertise that might be relevant to their project’s success. All in all, the course aims to help them fulfil the transition from being a student to a professional historian.

The course is concluded by a position paper of 2-3000 words that builds towards their end-of-year go/no-go chapter. At the end of the course, students have joined or committed to organise a working group of Huizinga members, which functions as a sounding board throughout the remainder of their PhD. This course is open to beginning PhD candidates only.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students feel equipped to deal with the practical challenges of being a professional cultural historian. In addition they

  • can position their project amongst the various constituent parts of cultural history
  • have a clear sense of the available expertise in the field and the possibilities for interdisciplinary cross-fertilization
  • can explain their project and its relevance to various audiences both within the broader cultural historical community and in society at large
  • enhance their methodological and theoretical knowledge


The course consists of six sessions. The first sessions is a full-day meeting, the other ones take the form of three-hour workshops. Each year, course elements may alternate according to evaluations and the needs of the year’s group of students.


  1. Introduction: (Harald Hendrix): During this session students are introduced to the course as well as to the Huizinga Research School and what it might offer them. Students present their projects in 10-minute presentations. The main goals are 1) to get to know each other’s research and 2) to learn how to best present a complex project to a diverse academic audience.
  1. Working in Cultural History (Anna Tijsseling): In this much-valued session, academic coach Anna Tijsseling helps students to identify the practical challenges awaiting PhDs in cultural history, and how best to respond to them.
  1. Positioning Your Research (Jan Hein Furnée)
  2. Interdisciplinarity as a Challenge [t.b.c.]: Almost all research in cultural history draws or bears on several subdisciplines within the humanities. Some might even engage with other domains altogether, especially with the social sciences. This session teaches you to deal with the challenges of interdisciplinarity. How to navigate two or more fields at once? How to determine your audience and conversation partners?
  3. Getting the Question Right, and Answering It (Erika Kuijpers and Judith Pollmann): This session will focus on sharpening the research questions in your project, and on how to best operationalize them.
  1. Final session (Harald Hendrix): One afternoon session devoted to discussing the papers and closing discussion.