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Cultural History and Religious History Research Group

The teaching and research in our research group is focused on cultural and religious history. By combining various fields, source types and methods, we work to develop new insights into historical processes, ideas and practices.

This can be achieved through in-depth research, but you can also choose for a long-term perspective, examining the shaping of canons and the history of knowledge and science. We aim to problematize traditional breakpoints, for instance between the Middle ages and Early Modern Times, or between religion and science, politics and emotions, economy and culture. Long-term research of cultural history also challenges us to develop and employ innovative digital research methods.

Our focus areas:

  • Religion - ritual - world view
  • Science - knowledge - education 
  • Emotions - senses - body
  • Politics - biography - leadership
  • Culture - economy - ecology


  • Long-term and comparative research
  • Digital Humanities – text, sentiment & concept mining
  • Reconstruction – historical smells, theater performances
  • Cooperation with private & public partners

Our teaching focuses primarily on the period between 1300 and 1850, but PhD candidates, bachelor’s and (research) master’s students can also approach us for teaching and supervision regarding culture, religion, power, knowledge, emotion, senses and digital methods in modern history. For MA History students we provide specializations in Cultures of Knowledge, Medical Humanities, and Religion and Society from Antiquity up to Today.

Research projects
The group has been very successful in attracting research funding from (inter)national scientific organizations, as well as private and public foundations, institutes and companies. Current projects include:

  • Fred van Lieburg is, among many other affiliations in the international field of religious history, principal investigator of the Netherlands e-Science Center project Digital Dutch Religion Portal (1500-2000) (DigiDuRe). This endeavor connects big datasets of books (STCN, GGC), religious specialists (pastors, ministers, etc.) and academics (RAN) in a digital infrastructure for research into correlations between religious positions, scholarly education, and the public discourse in the Netherlands and its colonies
  • Erika Kuijpers leads with Judith Pollmann (Universiteit Leiden) the interdisciplinary project Chronicling novelty. New knowledge in the Netherlands, 1500-1850. This project investigates the circulation and evaluation of new knowledge, ideas and technologies among a non-specialist public of middle-class authors of chronicles in the Netherlands. The project develops computational methods to use them in large numbers and comparatively, so as to track and analyse the circulation, evaluation and acceptance of old and new ideas and information over time and spatially.
  • In the creative industries project In Search of Scents Lost (NWO), Caro Verbeek works together with International Flavors and Fragrances and the Rijksmuseum in order to revive the Avant-Garde history of scents.
  • In Embodied Emotions, Leemans and Kuijpers developed a computer model (HEEM) that, on the long term, can trace (bodily) emotional expressions in old Dutch texts (Escience). Other current Digital Humanities projects include: QuPiD2 (AAA Data Science) and Visualizing Uncertainty (EScience).
  • Leemans and Dijksterhuis lead research groups in the international research project Global Knowledge Society.
  • Ab Flipse works on a biographical project about the biologist Jan Lever (1922-2010)

Cultural history and Religious history Staff members
Professors and academic staff

Endowed professor

Emeritus Professors

  • Willem Frijhoff emeritus professor of Early-modern History
  • Koen Goudriaan, emeritus professor of Medieval History
  • Gerrit Schutte, emeritus special professor of the History of Dutch Protestantism


  • Koos-jan de Jager, Promovendus HDC, Religious history of the Dutch army during the Indonesian War of Independence (1945-1950). (Promotores: G. Harinck & B. Wallet)
  • Stefan Reyes, Cape of Storms: The habitus, ideological clashes and accommodation among Cape slave crew communities from 1780-1806 (Promotores: I. Leemans & E. Kuijpers)
  • Johan Smits, Promovendus Lerarenbeurs (NWO) - Nations and the Life of Mind: Protestant Discourses on the Nation (Prussia, 1820-1870) (Promotores: F. van Lieburg & A.L. Molendijk)
  • Martha Visscher-Houweling, Promovendus Digibron - 'Ontwikkelingen in het orthodox-protestantisme onder de digitale loep' (Promotores: F. van Lieburg & E. Stronks)

Institutional embedding:
The research group is part of the VU Amsterdam’s interfaculty research institutes CLUE+ and the Network Institute, and is an active member of: