Huizinga Instituut Mission Statement

Cultural history is a broad and dynamic discipline, which can flexibly accommodate emerging topics and concerns. It is distinguished from other historical disciplines by its focus on culture as a process of attributing meaning. Taking a lead from Johan Huizinga, we understand culture as a system of ‘life forms’: usages, values, opinions, practices, objects, arts and knowledge, which may exist within a group and to which the group attaches meaning. Cultural history is distinguished by the very diverse range of sources it documents and uses (such as various kinds of text, images, music, smells, performativity, and heritage, both material and immaterial). Cultural history is also distinct from the field of Cultural studies because of its focus on historicity and the historical method, emphasizing historical dynamics and processes of change, interaction and appropriation across time and space. Cultural history is above all an interdisciplinary subject: within the Humanities it combines concepts and methods from history, art history, literature, theatre studies, book history, and more, and seeks interaction outside the Humanities with the social sciences (e.g. through cultural anthropology), with the natural and medical sciences (through the history of science and medical humanities), and with computer sciences (digital humanities). Within this disciplinary field, new approaches, focus points and specialisms emerge periodically . Given the importance of culture for processes of identification, the history of identity also occupies an important place in the discipline. Although much of the Institute’s work is on historical events which take place outside the Netherlands, since the time of Johan Huizinga there has been a powerful academic tradition of cultural history focusing on culture in the Netherlands and its connections with Europe and the wider world, together with a significant outreach to the Dutch public.

The Huizinga Institute’s mission is therefore:

  • to provide high-quality academic education for PhD researchers and Research Master (ReMA) students
  • to optimize the research culture and environment in which they operate
  • to provide a platform for national co-operation in cultural history research
  • to act as a sounding board, contact point, agency and international bridgehead for cultural history in the Netherlands.