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Instant History. Chronicling news and current affairs in early modern Europe


Admission requirements

See Reading List below for details on the entrance test.

A basic background history of early modern European culture and history, and willingness to read early modern texts in one or more of the following languages, Dutch, French, German, English, Latin. Students who have Dutch and skills in paleography will be able to work on archival sources; others may have to work with edited sources.


Whereas there is a rich literature on medieval chroniclers, the many local chroniclers of the early modern print age have fallen between the stools of the printed histories on the one hand, and the study of diaries and ‘egodocuments’ on the other. Yet, throughout the early modern period, literate Europeans of many walks of life kept a record of news and events in their own surroundings. Such records were usually never meant to be printed, but they often circulated in the family or locally, and were transmitted across generations. Starting point for this course is that the longevity of this genre of urban writing offers the possibility to explore a range of important issues such as the shape of urban identities, evolving senses of change, time and historical consciousness, the translocal horizon of early modern writers, the impact of new media, and the uses of literacy. In this course we will try and get a better sense of the genre, and explore its potential for research. We will also work on developing a method to assess changes in the genre over time.

Course objectives

  • To train heuristic skills.

  • To practice skills in (qualitative) source criticism.

  • Assess the potential of early modern manuscript chronicles for research on identity formation, media and cultures of literacy.

  • To practice the collecting and assessing of relevant literature on a poorly researched topic.

  • To jointly develop a method for measuring long term change in this type of source.


See here.

Mode of instruction

Research seminar.

Course Load

  • Classes: 24 hours.

  • Excursion: 6 hours.

  • Preparatory reading and entrance test: 20 hours.

  • Independent research and writing of the essay: 230 hours.

Assessment method

  • Essay (70 %).

  • Entrance test (10%).

  • Intermediate assignments and presentations (20%).


Yes, so as to circulate and exchange data.

Reading list

See Blackboard for instructions on preliminary reading and the entrance test. If you do not yet have access to this, send an email to


via uSis.

Contact information

E-mail: Mw. Prof. dr. J.S. Pollmann.


This course is open to MA students who want to write their thesis in the context of a research seminar. Students who have no Dutch language skills are expected to notify the lecturer 2 weeks before the start of the course.