Select Page

Summer School 2023: ‘History of the Humanities: Stories, Sources, and Challenges’

Course outline

What is the history of the humanities? Recent years have seen a surge of interest in historical approaches to the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften), with a Society for the History of the Humanities, the journal History of Humanities, annual conferences, and new book publications on an almost yearly basis. What does this new field look like? How does it relate to the history of science or to the history of individual disciplines (linguistics, history, media studies)? And how can you participate?

This summer school seeks to familiarize PhD candidates and research master students with key questions, methodological issues, and current developments in the history of humanities. Leading scholars in the field will come to Leiden for a three-day workshop clustered around three themes: stories, sources, and challenges.

The first theme draws attention to narratives of crisis, narratives of decline, and stories of origins that circulate in the media and are told by historians of the humanities themselves. If this first theme is rather analytical – how to recognize and analyze such stories, what to think of them? – the second theme is more practical. It aims to give participants an idea of the sort of sources on which historians of the humanities draw (textual or visual sources, but also oral history). The third theme, finally, encourages participants to think about the field as a whole and to identify some current challenges or priorities.


Some highlights of the program: Suzanne Marchand (Louisiana) will open the summer school with a keynote lecture, followed by discussion. Hampus Östh Gustafsson (Uppsala) will offer a workshop on narratives of crisis. Herman Paul (Leiden) will lead a hands-on exercise in narrative analysis, with recent history of humanities books as primary source material. Whereas Toon van Hal (Leuven) will address the topic of “forgetting” in the history of the humanities, Paul Michael Kurtz (Ghent) will reflect on the sources that historians of the humanities can use. Julianne Nyhan (Darmstadt) will highlight a specific type of sources: oral history interviews with first-generation practitioners of digital humanities. Last but not least, Rens Bod (Amsterdam) will invite participants to join him in an exploration of current challenges and opportunities for the field.

The program would not be complete without social events (lunches, dinner) and excursions to two wonderful collections kept in Leiden. The plan is to visit the seventeenth-century Bibliotheca Thysiana as well as the Netherlands Institute for the Near East, with its rich collection of cuneiform clay tablets. The summer school itself will take place in the medieval Gravensteen (“Castle of the counts”), next to the monumental Pieterskerk (St. Peter’s Church).

ECTS: 3 (possible to make this 5 ECTS with an extra assignment – contact the Huizinga office for more information).

Further details (reading list, assignments) will be made available in due course to all registered participants.

This course is fully booked. Please contact for a spot on the waiting list.

Register (1/22 spaces left)

Bookings are closed for this course.