Masterclass – Darrin McMahon (Dartmouth)

The Return of the History of Ideas?

Date: Tuesday February 3 2015
Time: 10.00 – 12.30
Venue: UB – Belle van Zuylenzaal, Singel 425 Amsterdam
Open to: RMa students and PhD candidates (Huizinga and OPG)
Fee (non-members): € 50,00
Organisers: Annelien de Dijn & Matthijs Lok (UvA)

Darrin McMahon will also give a public lecture on Monday February 2: 15:00-17:00
at the Doelenzaal (UB Universiteit van Amsterdam, Singel 425) 
‘The Return of the History of Ideas?
More information:


Long dismissed as a hopelessly outdated form of inquiry, the “history of ideas” is today making a comeback as a viable form of intellectual history.  What are the promises and the pitfalls of a renewed history of ideas?  In this discussion, Professor McMahon will take up the question both from the standpoint of past criticism and current methodological concerns.

Darrin M. McMahon is a historian, author, and public speaker, who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and is a Professor of History at Dartmouth College. Formerly McMahon was the Ben Weider Professor of History and Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University.

Born in Carmel, California, and educated at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale, where he received his PhD in 1998, McMahon is the author of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001) and Happiness: A History (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006), which has been translated into twelve languages and was awarded Best Books of the Year honors for 2006 by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Library Journal, and Slate Magazine.

McMahon has just completed a history of the idea of genius and the genius figure, Divine Fury: A History of Genius, published in October of 2013 with Basic Books. He is also the editor, with Ryan Hanley, of The Enlightenment: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, 5 vols. (Routledge, 2009), and, with Samuel Moyn, of Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (Oxford University Press, 2014).

McMahon has taught as a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York University, Yale University, the University of Rouen, the École Normale Supérieur, and the University of Potsdam. His writings have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Preparation and reading
  • David Armitage (2012): What’s the Big Idea? Intellectual History and the Longue Durée , History of European Ideas, 38:4, 493-507.
  • Darrin McMahon, ‘The return of the history of ideas?’ in: Darrin M. McMahon, Samuel Moyn (red.),  Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (2014), 13-31.

Participants are required to prepare a few (at least one) questions for Professor McMahon regarding his paper, preferably relating to your own research. In addition, participants are requested to prepare a short statement (max. 500 words) on their research interests. Please email questions and short research statement by Wednesday January 28 2015 to:

New members Huizinga PhD council

After over two years of membership, Lieke van Deinsen and Jan Rotmans have recently left the Huizinga PhD council to focus all their attention on finishing their dissertations. We would like to thank them for the time and effort they put into the Huizinga Institute.

Luckily, the PhD council found two worthy successors and we would like to introduce them to you.

Tymen Peverelli (1988) is a PhD candidate at the History department of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). His current research, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), focusses on the dynamics of urban and national identities in the Netherlands and Belgium during the long nineteenth century. His academic work is primarily located at the intersection between the cultural history of (national) identities, urban space and memory. Previously, he worked as a guest researcher for the Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms (SPIN). After finishing his Bachelor’s degree in history at the UvA, he studied at the Nationalism Studies Program of the Central European University in Budapest and graduated from the UvA Research Master in History with distinction. His Master’s thesis Mensentuin on the history of the Antwerp Zoo in the nineteenth century was published by Academia Press in Ghent.

Ivan Flis is a PhD Candidate in History and Philosophy of Psychology at the Descartes Centre, Utrecht University since January 2014. He got his degree in psychology from the Centre for Croatian Studies, University of Zagreb, Croatia in 2013. During his studies and academic career, he was involved as an Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS). He is a vocal advocate of Open Access and Open Science, working with the European Federation of Psychology Students’ Associations (EFPSA) and the Right to Research Coalition. Ivan’s research interest is housed at the intersection of history of science, philosophy of science, science studies, and the multifarious branches of 20th century research psychology. Specifically, his research focuses on the usage of quantitative methodologies and their relation to theory development in psychology from 1950s onwards –  in simple terms, it is about psychologists using numbers to theorize. He investigates this topic based on two kinds of sources – large amount of data-mined content from academic psychology journals and close-reading of introductory psychology textbooks. Through this, he aims to describe the complex relationship between psychologists’ investigative practices and their theorizing.

In April next year there will be a new edition of the Huizinga Promovendi Symposium and the PhD Council will, as usual, organize a meeting there. If you have any comments, questions or other issues you would like to discuss please contact them.


Promovendisymposium voorjaar 2014


Datum: 14, 15 en 16 (optioneel) april 2014
Tijd: 10 – 18 h
LocatieHoorneboeg, Hilversum
Credits: 3 ECTS (met eigen presentatie); 1 ECTS (toehoorder)
Bestemd voor: Exclusief voor promovendi, lid het Huizinga Instituut 
Programma Promovendisymposium 14-15 april 2014


Opzet symposium

Tijdens dit symposium presenteren derdejaars promovendi van diverse universiteiten (een deel van) hun onderzoek. In deze presentatie komen het doel, de probleemstelling en de gebruikte methode van onderzoek aan de orde. Ook reeds gesignaleerde problemen kunnen naar voren gebracht worden. Op de presentatie wordt in eerste instantie gereageerd door een referent, die door de promovendus zelf wordt uitgenodigd en die van te voren van de inhoud van de voordracht op de hoogte is gebracht. Daarna is er discussie met alle aanwezigen.

Voor wie?

Het promovendisymposium is primair bedoeld voor derdejaars promovendi om hun onderzoek te presenteren. Omdat het symposium een goede introductie vormt op het onderzoek dat binnen het Huizinga Instituut verricht wordt, zijn eerstejaars promovendi van harte uitgenodigd om het symposium bij te wonen. Tweede- en vierdejaars promovendi, evenals stafleden van het Huizinga Instituut, zijn ook van harte welkom.

Course oral history and life stories

Course Oral History and Life Stories

Date: 10, 14, 17, 21, 24 January 2013, and possibly 6 February 2013
Time: 13:00 – 16:30
Venue: all dates, UB – Potgieterzaal (Amsterdam), except 17 January: Bungehuis 3.02 (Amsterdam)
Teacher: prof. dr. Selma Leydesdorff and selected guest speakers
Open to: PhD candidates and advanced RMA students
Fee (non members): €250
Credits: 3 ECTS
Max. number of participants: 15–THIS EVENT IS FULLY BOOKED

The course

Historians and others who interview about the past often  talk about memory and how they are informed by  memory, while they know memory is a difficult and problematic source of historical knowledge. During this course we shall concentrate on the use of memory in historical research. We will investigate the  of various efforts to create a more systematic  and theoretically grounded approach than ‘just talking about days long gone’. How can we create a research pattern that overcomes the incidental and replace it by an integration of the changing character of spoken narratives about the past? We shall also compare spoken memories with  other ego-documents, bearing in mind the many other existing and valid  ways of interviewing about personal experience. We shall analyse the creation of a particular kind of knowledge which produces alternative and unfamiliar viewpoints. While historical interviews ask a lot of research time, participants in this course will involve in questions like: Do I really need interviews, what do I want to know, are there other ways to get this kind of knowledge?

General starting-point for discussion is the study of life stories in oral history as a tradition in the humanities and in the social sciences. In due course, additional attention will be paid to alternative modes of in-depth interviews. Issues to be investigated in particular concern the questions of intersubjectivity; (self) reflection; identification with the Other and her/his past; and the interviewer’s role in the process of meaning/knowledge production. What are our responsibilities towards people we interview, do we have particular responsibilities in our research communities? What does it mean to be close to an interviewee, what happens if there is distance or when we don’t like what we hear? Do we have to agree with our interviewees?

Preparation, literature and assignments

The literature is composed of various articles, informing on how to organize a larger interview project, discussing how to analyse interviews. The various stages of such a large project will be followed. The list of literature is updated annually. There are always guest lecturers who explain how they overcome difficulties during their research, while the course also discusses more theoretical approaches.

An element becoming more important is the use of websites for the dissemination of narrated accounts and the making of interviews with the help of a camera.

As usual advanced researchers who want to refresh their knowledge with recent literature and who want to bring their problems and subjects to the discussion will be welcome. They are asked to accept a status in which they are equal with other participants. Students will be asked to prepare commentaries on the literature.

In order to prepare for the literature and the course, participants are asked to write a short motivation which informs the supervisor of the course about the direction of their research. Deadline: 15 December, 2012. Send to: