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Adriaan Duiveman MA

PhD candidate


Dealing with disasters in the Eighteenth-Century Dutch Republic, 1700-1807

Radboud University Nijmegen
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Lotte Jensen
Aanstelling: vanaf februari 2018

How human communities develop different identities, on local as well as national levels, and what keeps them together are questions of major historical importance. Current scholarship has the tendency to focus on politics, in particular war and conflict, as the decisive factors in processes of community building. This NOW project develops a new approach by studying processes of identity formation from the perspective of disaster studies. The main hypothesis is that the issue of identity formation can be understood properly only when the impact of disasters (floods, storms, famines, plagues) is taken into account.
The eighteenth century is usually characterised as the age of enlightenment, leading to advancements in science and critical thought in the domains of religion and politics (Israel 1998: 1038-1066). This project will establish to what extent disaster discourses were influenced by enlightenment thought, while, at the same time, focusing on the central question of local and national community building in disaster discourses. I will select a number of disasters to explore in depth, including the fire in the Amsterdam Schouwburg (1772) and a series of floods (1717, 1740, 1775, 1784). This subproject analyses the imagery through the lense of local and national identity formation, and situate the cultural responses against the background of developing enlightened and national thought.
Special attention will be paid to the question whether the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 can be seen as a watershed in Dutch disaster discourses. The news of the Lisbon earthquake produced severe aftershocks throughout Europe: in science, philosophy, and literature, as authors wondered what God – if there were any God – could have intended by sending such a punishment on a holy day. The Dutch had their own way of perceiving the news and incorporated it into Protestant discourses on religion and providence, as has been established in previous research. The question therefore has to be raised regarding the extent to which the news of this catastrophe influenced disaster discourses in subsequent decades. And if it indeed changed the standard discourse, what was then the impact on the issue of community building? Specific attention will be paid to the subgenre of sermons, in which the impact of disasters on the local and national community was often discussed.