Category Archives: Publications

PhD Thesis Defended!

On 24 October, I successfully defended my PhD thesis entitled Heretical Heroes and Savage Saviours. The Dutch and Poles in each other’s imaginations during the long seventeenth century. I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and subsequent celebrations: a reception, dinner and party with family and friends! My thanks go out to all those who made the day’s festivities possible, especially my supervisors prof. dr. Lotte Jensen and prof. dr. Johan Oosterman, the members of the manuscript committee, and my paranymphs dr. Lieke Verheijen-van Wijk and dr. Alan Moss.

My PhD thesis can be downloaded for free here. Interested in a summary? This video shows a recording of the brief presentation I gave at the start of the defence ceremony (in Dutch).

Dutch and English Introductions to my PhD Thesis

Radboud University has published a text on my PhD thesis, which offers an introduction to my research and discusses some of my main conclusions. It forms the result of a conversation I had with Wies Bakker, who works at the university’s Marketing and Communications department. An English translation was published here by Radboud Recharge.

The Dutch version was subsequently republished here by the website


1654: A Polish Poet Mourns a Dutch Disaster (NL Embassy in PL)

On 12 October 1654, the Delft Thunderclap took place. At approximately 10:30 a.m., a quarter of the town was wiped away by an explosion in the gunpowder magazine of Holland, which was located in or near a former monastery. The cause of the explosion has never been established, but the story goes that a clerk entered the magazine carrying a burning lantern, sparks of which may have set fire to the highly flammable stash of gunpowder inside. The disaster elicited numerous responses by authors and artists from the Northern and Southern Netherlands, but it also inspired a reaction from Poland: in Gdańsk, the local historian, doctor, and teacher Joachim Pastorius showed solidarity with the Dutch victims by writing a mournful Latin poem, which he published in 1657. Pastorius had many Dutch contacts and likely based his verses on Dutch sources, specifically a famous poem by Joost van den Vondel. He probably sent it to his Dutch friends as a sign of compassion. Pastorius’s composition thus forms a fine example of the literary relations between Poland and the Dutch Republic. Moreover, the disastrous Delft Thunderclap provided him with the opportunity to shape an emotional community which bridged the two countries.

Egbert van der Poel, ‘The Delft Thunderclap’, 1654.

For a detailed analysis of Pastorius’s engagement with the disaster, see my Open Access chapter ‘Early Modern Community Formation Across Northern Europe. How and Why a Poet in Poland Engaged with the Delft Thunderclap of 1654’, in: H. van Asperen and L. Jensen (eds.), Dealing with Disasters from Early Modern to Modern Times. Cultural Responses to Catastrophes (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2023) 61-81.

*I originally wrote (a different version of) this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 47.

PhD Thesis Finished!

This is it: Heretical Heroes and Savage Saviours. The Dutch and Poles in each other’s imaginations during the long seventeenth century, the final version of my PhD thesis! Almost 600 pages and over 150 illustrations which together tell a story about how the Dutch and Poles imagined each other during the long seventeenth century, and how we can explain these representations. From the United Provinces as a natural and cultural marvel and school of warfare to the Dutch population as Calvinist, freedom-loving peasants, and from Poland as a grain-rich trading partner and champion of Christendom to the Poles themselves as northern savages and inhabitants of Europe’s Orient. The book will be available in Open Access after my defence on 24 October!


Scroll down for an impression of the book’s contents:

History in Service of Diplomacy: Foreign Affairs Minister References my Research

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.

Opinie in de Volkskrant: Solidariteit met Oekraïne vereist ook meer waardering voor Oost-Europa

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:

New publication: Memory culture on the Dutch and Polish Grand Tour

I am proud to have contributed – with my friend and colleague Alan Moss – to a fascinating Open Access book, published by Brill and edited by Koen Scholten, Dirk van Miert, and Karl Enenkel, entitled Memory and Identity in the Learned World. Community Formation in the Early Modern World of Learning and Science. Our chapter, ‘Tracing the Sites of Learned Men. Places and Objects of Knowledge on the Dutch and Polish Grand Tour’, concerns memory culture on seventeenth-century Dutch and Polish educational journeys across Europe.


Specifically, we study how places of knowledge (i.a. universities and the homes, tombs, and monuments of scholars), or objects of knowledge (i.a. a scholar’s personal belongings), strengthened a visitor’s scholarly persona and connected him to a large, academic community. Applying a transnational approach, we use multiple handwritten travelogues and printed poems by both Dutch and Polish travellers, thus offering a fresh perspective on two widespread phenomena: the Grand Tour and the European learned world, the Republic of Letters. While most studies on the Grand Tour have a British focus, we present Polish and Dutch experiences. Also, we cast a wide net on the learned world, defined not only by correspondences, but by the shared appreciation and remembrance of scholars and places of knowledge.


First, we focus on Dutch and Polish travellers’ responses to Oxford and Leiden. By reflecting on these cities, itinerants helped construct their reputations as hubs of knowledge and as the common ground of a larger academic community, with which the voyagers identified. Next, we discuss sites and artefacts connected to Lipsius, Grotius, and Erasmus, ranging from Lipsius’s silver pen in Halle to Erasmus’s statue in Rotterdam and the grave of Grotius in Delft, all of which inspired travellers to relate to these famed men of letters. Lastly, we investigate how these and other locations and artefacts feature in the Latin poetry of two travellers: the Silesian-Polish Joachim Pastorius and the Dutch Caspar van Kinschot. Their verses show how they creatively engaged with universities and academic forebears.


In our conclusion, we consider the various ways in which both Polish and Dutch travellers constructed an academic community via places and objects of knowledge, and we explain that, while some sites and artefacts were transconfessional, others inspired religious controversy. Also, we assert that the learned imagined community not only transcended national and (to an extent) religious boundaries, but chronological ones as well, since places and objects of scholarly memory were portals through which generational borders could be crossed.

The chapter includes some highly interesting finds, such as the earliest known published catalogue of rarities in Leiden’s hortus botanicus: an apparently unique document, dated 1653, which a Polish Jesuit added to his travelogue.

Our thanks go out to the editors!

New publication: Branding Jan III Sobieski and his letters

“Every civilized Dutchman who has studied modern history, even if only in general terms, knows the brave Jan Sobieski.” These words come from a book review from 1832, discussing the recent publication of the letters of Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), in Dutch translation. The review illustrates how famous the former Polish king was in the Northern Netherlands, even more than a century after his death.

I have previously written about Sobieski’s Dutch reception in the late seventeenth century, prior to his acclaimed victory at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683. In a new publication, entitled ‘A Hero and His History. The Branding of Jan III Sobieski and His Letters in the Northern Netherlands during the Early Nineteenth Century’, I explore a related topic, venturing out of the early modern period. In the late 1820s and early 1830s, Europe saw the appearance of several editions of Sobieski’s correspondence. Three Dutch editions were published in The Hague. My publiation analyses the ways in which Sobieski and his letters were branded in these Dutch editions, particularly in the books’ extensive front matter. It argues that, while the Dutch branding was directly inspired by earlier French and Polish versions, the motives behind these different editions varied greatly, depending on their contexts. Of key importance were events related to Polish patriotism, such as the November Uprising. A number of reviews furthermore make clear how the brands in the Dutch editions were received.

My research has resulted in a book chapter, which has now appeared in H. van den Braber, J. Dera, J. Joosten and M. Steenmeijer (eds.), Branding Books Across the Ages. Strategies and Key Concepts in Literary Branding (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2021). You can find the Open Access publication on the publisher’s website.

Mooie recensies Bezem & Kruis

Bezem & Kruis: De Hollandse schoonmaakcultuur of de geschiedenis van een obsessie, mijn vorig najaar verschenen vertaling van een Poolse studie van letterkundige en kunsthistoricus Piotr Oczko, krijgt mooie kritieken van onder meer de Volkskrant en het NRC Handelsblad. In de Volkskrant geeft Olaf Tempelman het boek 4 sterren. Hij typeert het als ‘een indrukwekkende studie naar de Hollandse poetszucht’ en ‘een verkapte liefdesverklaring aan een klein land aan de Noordzee.’ In het NRC is Bart Funnekotter nog positiever: 5 ballen. ‘Dit is geen lollig plaatjesboek met wat tekstjes over die malle, poetsende Hollanders,’ zo stelt hij, ‘maar een kritische, diepgravende duiding van een nationale cultuur.’ De recensies zijn respectievelijk hier en hier te lezen.

De echte vliegende Hollander: Een Nederlandse admiraal in Gdańsk

Voor de website Maritiem Portal schreef ik een blog getiteld De echte vliegende Hollander: Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam in gedichten uit 17e-eeuws Gdańsk. Ik bespreek daarin de wijze waarop de Nederlandse admiraal Van Wassenaer Obdam (1610-1665), die in eigen land een twijfelachtige reputatie genoot, besproken wordt in Latijnse gedichten uit Gdańsk/Danzig, de Baltische havenstad die eeuwenlang bij het Pools-Litouwse Gemenebest hoorde.

Abraham Evertsz. van Westerveld, Portret van Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, ca. 1660.

Van Wassenaer Obdam maakte zich meermaals verdienstelijk voor Gdańsk, hetgeen tot uiting komt in meerdere lofdichten die ik gevonden heb tijdens archiefonderzoek ter plaatse. De dichters benadrukken de banden tussen de admiraal (en de Nederlandse Republiek als geheel) en hun stad, alsook de spectaculaire dood van de vlootvoogd, die in 1665 omkwam tijdens de Slag bij Lowestoft. De gedichten vormen een van de vele culturele sporen van de ‘moedernegotie’ en getuigen van de verwevenheid van de belangen van de Republiek en Gdańsk in de zeventiende eeuw.