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How to Celebrate the Nation. Debates about National Commemorations in the Netherlands: 1863, 1913, 1963, 2013


Admission requirements

Ability to analyse sources in Dutch.


In 2013-2015 the Netherlands will celebrate their bicentennial as an independent constitutional monarchy. After a period of French influence and French rule independence was restored in 1813. In the following years the Netherlands acquired a written constitution, two chambers of parliament and a monarchy. It was a turning point in Dutch (political) history, but a difficult one. On the one hand, the Dutch could already look back to the impressive history of the Dutch Republic. On the other, 1813-1815 saw the beginning of a new constitutional system, but this was only fully developed during the 19th and 20th centuries. So, what was there to celebrate? In 1863, 1913 and 1963 commemorations were organized, that reflected this uncertainty.
At the same time, they also reflected contemporary preoccupations, such as royalism (in 1863), nationalism (in 1913), and a European orientation (in 1963). By studying the contemporary debates about the way the celebrations had to be organized, we will try to find out what their purpose and meaning was and in what sense history was interpreted (and even used) to fit contemporary goals. In doing so, we will also discuss the format of the celebrations of the coming years. Possible sources are debates in the press and in political circles, archival material of committees, Comparisons with celebrations in other countries or of other events will be encouraged.

Course objectives

Research in primary sources, analysis of the way history was used in national commemorations and of the political debates involved, reflection about the function of history in contemporary society.


See here.

Mode of instruction

Research seminar.

Assessment method

Small assignments, oral presentation, written paper (two versions).



Reading list

To be announced.


via uSis.

Contact information

Email: prof.dr. H. te Velde.


  • The lecturer of this course is a member of the national committee for the bicentennial. We will invite other members of this committee to discuss the meaning of the commemoration.

  • A few places are reserved for students who have chosen the track MA History: Political Culture and National Identities.