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Research Workshop: Political Eloquence in the Netherlands


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


With his speech of 16 March 2020 Prime Minister Mark Rutte changed the tune of the corona crisis in the Netherlands. Since the Oil Crisis of 1973 no Prime Minister had addressed the Dutch population in such a way. Political speeches really matter, and their effect depends on the speaker, the audience and the occasion. Rutte’s speech will be part of the conclusion of the book that I am writing about the history of political eloquence in the Netherlands since 1800.

This history started in a completely different world, without youtube, television or radio. In this course, we will discuss the sources that can be used for the projected book. What are the advantages and pitfalls of the sources each period provides? How can we assess the reception of political speeches, and the impression they made? We will read international literature on how to analyze speeches, glimpse into the kitchen of ongoing research (you’ll also get the opportunity to critically assess my articles about the matter), and get a taste of the sources that could be used. In pairs or small groups you will, for instance, look into the sources for the reception or background to the 4 May speech by the King, read letters to a famous Dutch nazi radio propagandist, research the rhetoric of early 19th-century orators, or other sources in between.

Possible questions for discussion include: the role of female orators; changes in the taste for oratory over time; the striking role of eloquence during the nazi occupation; traditions of Dutch political eloquence; the tradition Rutte’s speech was based on. (Passive) knowledge of Dutch is a distinct advantage, but it will also be possible to discuss cases other than Dutch.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

The student has acquired:

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Workshop

The student:

  • 13) knows how to close-read, analyse and critically reflect on the use of different kinds of primary sources, and use them effectively and creatively in the practice of historical research.

  • 14) Has aquired the ability to critically assess primary sources for the study of political eloquence

  • 15) Is able to distinguish between different periods or stages in the history of political eloquence in terms of sources and their reception


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Workshop (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written final report (3000 words, based on discussion of primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography) based on research in primary sources or reflection on these sources
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 9-15

  • Joint small assignments about sources and literature
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 9-15

  • Participation in class and online
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 8-15


Written paper: 80%
Assignments: 10%
Participation: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

Will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. dr. H. te Velde