Historical Droste effect: I found out that the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra referenced a paper of mine – on poetry as a diplomatic tool in 17th-century Dutch-Polish relations – in a speech he gave at a modern Dutch-Polish diplomatic event, last April:
Hoekstra placed himself in that same 17th-century tradition by quoting the famed Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel, who praised Gdańsk in 1635 to boost the grain trade. Almost 400 years later, Vondel’s poem thus once again served to bolster Dutch-Polish relations. Also, Vondel’s definition of Gdańsk as “queen of the northern region” is a translation of a Latin verse about Gdańsk by the Polish poet Sarbiewski/Sarbievius, published in 1634. In other words: Hoekstra quoted Vondel quoting Sarbiewski. This is some serious intertextuality! Moreover, my own paper on early modern diplomacy has become part of the modern diplomatic process. And so have I: the fact that I’m a “Dutch historian” is especially relevant in this context (Hoekstra missed the opportunity to say that I’m also Polish, however).
In conclusion, the speech shows how the study of history and literature can be used to pursue political and economic interests via international diplomacy. “Valorisation” of humanities research doesn’t get much more explicit than this.
My paper was published here, in Legatio: The Journal for Renaissance and Early Modern Diplomatic Studies in 2019.
Hoekstra’s speech can be found here.
Recently, I wrote about Dutch-Polish sporting history, specifically regarding the Summer Olympics of 1928 in Amsterdam. Another fascinating anecdote from that event concerns poetry and art. Back then, the Olympics also included cultural contests. Medals were awarded for artistic works inspired by sport, in several categories: architecture, literature, music, visual arts and sculpture. The gold medal in the category of literature was won by the Polish author Kazimierz Wierzyński, who had written a series of fifteen poems entitled Laur olimpijski (the Olympic Laurel). The poems discuss several sporting disciplines, such as the 100 meters sprint and discus throwing, but also applaud specific contestants. One of the poems describes a race by female athletes. Furthermore, the Polish artist Władysław Skoczylas won a bronze medal in the category of drawing.
The picture shows the front and back of the gold medal as awarded during the 1928 Olympics. Wierzyński won a similar medal.
*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 40.
Herwaardeer Oost-Europa en reken af met de stereotype negatieve, neerbuigende beeldvorming, want die speelt Poetin in de kaart, stel ik in een opiniestuk in de Volkskrant. Ik ga in op de geschiedenis en invloed van die beeldvorming, en waarom die moet veranderen: “Oekraïne en de andere landen in het oosten van het continent vormen geen koloniale ruimte, speelbal of buffer, maar zijn volwaardige, autonome staten met rijke geschiedenissen en eigen culturen. Deze nieuwe beeldvorming is cruciaal voor de westerse solidariteit met Oekraïne op de lange termijn en de democratische toekomst van heel Europa.”
Wie er online niet bij kan, leze de papieren versie:
Poland and the Netherlands share a rich history in sports. Right now, for instance, the two countries together host the Volleyball World Championship for women. An interesting older Dutch-Polish connection relating to women’s sports dates from 1928, when Amsterdam hosted the Summer Olympics. It was the first time women were allowed to participate in athletic and gymnastic events at the Olympic competition. The world champion in the field of discus throwing, the Polish Halina Konopacka, won the gold medal in that discipline, smashing both her personal and the world records. In addition, it was the first Olympic gold medal ever won on behalf of Poland. Konopacka was considered a beautiful athlete, which earned her the nickname “Miss Olympia”.
The picture shows a colorized photograph of Konopacka in action during the 1928 Olympics.
*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 39.