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Masterclass Thomas Maissen and Wyger Velema

Visualizing Politics: Working with Images in Intellectual History

Date: November 7, 2016
Time: 9:30-17:00
Venue: Potgieterzaal, University Library, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam
Open to:  RMa students and PhD candidates
Fee (non-members): 50 euro
Credits: 1 ECTS for contributors, none for auditors
Coordination: Lisa Kattenberg (UvA) and Lina Weber (UvA)
Registration (Contributors can register by sending an email to
Register before: 9 October 2016

The so-called Cambridge School of Political Thought has not only transformed the way intellectual history is nowadays conducted but notably Quentin Skinner demonstrated the relevance of visual material for early modern political discourse. To include paintings, prints, and other graphic sources in research on political thought can add new insights to the way and means available to historical actors engaging in contemporary discussions about the state and society.

This masterclass aims at continuing this approach by discussing some concrete examples chosen by the speakers but also presented by the participants. The guiding questions will be: How did symbols, figures, and allegories represent and help conceptualize abstract ideas like the state, a certain nation, or liberty? How did these visual materialization of ideas differ from or interact with mental images and written sources? And finally, how can we as historians go beyond using these images as mere illustrations in a more productive way?

About the speakers

Thomas Maissen (*1962) studied History, Latin, and Philosophy at the Universities of Basle, Rome, and Geneva. After earning his PhD with a thesis on the usages of the French past in the Italian Renaissance (Von der Legende zum Modell. Das Interesse für die französische Vergangenheit während der italienischen Renaissance, Basel 1994) he wrote a habilitation on the emergence of the early modern Swiss confederacy (Die Geburt der Republic. Staatsverständnis und Repräsentation in der frühneuzeitlichen Eidgenossenschaft, Göttingen 2006). Since 2004, Thomas Maissen holds the chair for Early Modern History at the University of Heidelberg and since 2013, he is director of the German Historical Institute Paris. His research interests are focused on the history of historiography, the history of political thought, and Swiss history.

Prof. Dr. Wyger Velema (*1955) is holder of the Jan Romein chair for the philosophy of history and the history of historiography at the University of Amsterdam. He obtained his PhD degree at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore under the supervision of Prof. J.G.A. Pocock. He is specialized in early modern history, with an emphasis on the eighteenth century, the history of political thought and conceptual history. His first book, Enlightenment and Conservatism in the Dutch Republic (1993), was on the political thought of Elie Luzac, one of the key figures of the Dutch Enlightenment. He has since published widely on the history of political thought and on the history of concepts. A number of his essays on these topics have been published by Brill Academic Publishers: Republicans. Essays on Eighteenth-Century Dutch Political Thought (2007). Recently his research has turned to antiquity and modernity in the eighteenth century, on which he has published numerous essays.


This one-day masterclass aims at discussing approaches to visual material for intellectual historians by giving participants the opportunity to intensify and exemplify their own material and putting them in a broader context. The course consists of two parts. On the one hand two senior key note speakers give a short introduction to their own experiences of working with paintings and prints and to the assigned research literature that will be followed by questions and discussion with all participants. The aim is to establish a broad framework of the usage of visual material in early-modern European political discourse. On the other hand a number of contributing participants are given the chance to briefly summarize her/his pre-circulated paper and raise particular questions she/he encountered in working with them (max. 5 Min.). This will be followed by questions and discussion with the group (25 minutes per participant). Though the focus will be on the early-modern period, interested researchers in intellectual history of other eras are encouraged to apply as well. Besides the option of contributing their own material, students can also apply as active auditors (attend and partake in the discussion).

  • 09:30 – Welcome and introduction by Lisa Kattenberg and Lina Weber
  • 10:00 – Session Thomas Maissen
  • 11:00 – Session contributor 1
  • 11:30 – Session contributor 2
  • 12:00 – Session contributor 3
  • 12:30 – Lunch
  • 13:30 – Session Wyger Velema
  • 14:30 – Session contributor 4
  • 15:00 – Coffee and tea
  • 15:30 – Session participant 5
  • 16:00 – Session participant 6
  • 16:30 – Concluding discussion


Interested researchers can participate in two different manners: as an active auditor or as a contributor. Contributors are expected to submit a short paper (1 page together with 2-4 examples, by 30 October, for further details see section ‘Preparation’), which is required for earning 1 ECTS. These papers, together with the proposed literature from the speakers, will be distributed in advance to all participants, both contributors and auditors, and will be starting point for discussion during the workshop.

We ask all interested researchers to apply with a short and informal outline of their research and research interests (max. 100 words). Researchers applying for the contributor places also need to include a short statement of what he/she thinks can add to the topic, and what she/he would like to get out of the masterclass (max. 200 words). Deadline for application is 9 October, the results will be announced on 12 October.

Preparation and proposed readings


  • Allan Ellenius, ed. Iconography, Propaganda and Legitimation (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1998), pp. 245-275 (articles by Peter Burke and Thomas Froeschl).
  • Rolf Reichardt and Hubertus Kohle, Vizualizing the Revolution. Politics and the Pictorial Arts in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Reaktion Books: London, 2008), pp. 7-11 and 183-239.
  • Thomas Maissen, Die Bedeutung der christlichen Bildsprache für die Legitimation frühneuzeitlicher Staatlichkeit (work in progress, pp tba).


After acceptance, the contributing participants are asked to hand in a paper that will be circulated in advance. These papers should consist of:

  • a brief outline of their research (1 page);
  • 2-4 relevant images that are accompanied by short introductions;
  • particular questions that participants would like to discuss with the group.

Furthermore, the organizers would like to compile a list with databases and bibliographies for visual sources. Therefore, participants are asked to contribute to it by sending in relevant information in a Word document that will be put together and handed out to the group.

Submit to (and c.c. to on or before the deadline: 9 October 2016.