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From Forgery to Fake News: Making History?


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma, or completed your first year, within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


This course will introduce historical forgeries to discuss their importance in the formation of history and historiography. From the tenth century to the present-day, historical forgeries (mainly of texts) have played an important role in process of (national or other) identity formation. The focus will initially be on historical forgeries from Korea, but will be broadened to include forgeries from outside of the Korean peninsula – i.e. China, Japan, Europe, US. Texts ascribed to rulers, genealogies forged to raise one’s social status, apocryphal sutra’s that introduced new notions in Buddhism disguised as the words of the historical Buddha: the list is virtually endless. During this course, the uses and abuses of historical forgeries will be analyzed using original historical materials and secondary (often western) literature to develop a typology of historical forgeries. The course will also explore the structural relationship in terms of context, method, sources, and ambitions between historical forgeries and between ‘fake news’.
The course consists of lectures and of seminar-style meetings. The lectures will provide the students with the academic analysis and knowledge of historical forgeries and their discursive roles. The seminar meetings – after the lecture – are meant to provide the students with opportunities for feedback and exchange with regard to their final project, which should consist of a critical, academic reflection upon forgeries and/or fake news, and an example of what a historical forgery or a sample of seriously constructed fake news may look like.

Course objectives

To familiarize students with the role and position of historical forgeries in a Korean (and East Asian) context through:
a). scholarly discourse relevant to the modern discipline of history, in particular with regard to identity formation and historiography;
b). scholarly discourse relevant to particular conditions of historical discourse and identity formation discourse pertaining to historical forgeries in Korea and East Asia;
c). methods and approaches most useful for historical and sociological enquiry into historical forgeries in Korea and East Asia.
d). fostering of a critical approach towards forgery and the different discourses surrounding it.
In order to contextualize the aims of b) and c) within the state of the discipline (a), the course will demand an amount of reading about/considering other regional engagements with historical forgeries and history (e.g. Africa, Europe, etc).


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.30 to 17.00.

Mode of instruction

Seminar and lecture

Assessment method


Students will be asked to submit two critical reflections on the academic literature used for the course, one podcast recording discussing a topic to be decided, and to participate in one Oxford-style debate session. The final assignment of the class consists of an academic paper accompanying a self-made sample of a historical forgery or fake news. Details can be found in the syllabus.


Two critical reflections 2x5%
Podcast recording 10%
Oxford-style debate session 10%
Forgery/fake news20%
Paper 50%


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the lecturer and/ or the Humanities Lab coordinators in advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


The resit for each assignment is a resubmission of the same assignment.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

Remco Breuker, Forging the truth: creative deception and national identity in medieval Korea (special issue of East Asian History, no. 35, 2008)
Remco Breuker, “Authenticating the Past: Filling in Gaps with the Tan’gi kosa, “ in Invented Traditions in North and South Korea, edited by Andrew Jackson, Codruţa Sîntionean, Remco E. Breuker, and CedarBough T. Saeji. Hawaii University Press, 2021.
Denis Dutton (ed.), The forger’s art: forgery and the philosophy of art, (University of California Press, 1983).
Anthony Grafton. Forgers and Critics, New Edition: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship. Princeton University Press, 2019.
Judith Ryan, Alfred Thomas (eds.), Cultures of Forgery: Making Nations, Making Selves (Routledge, 2003)
David Selbourne, The City of Light: the Hidden Journal of the Man Who Entered China Four Years Before Marco Polo (Citadel, 2003)
Hugh Trevor-Roper, A hidden life: the Enigma of Sir Edmund Backhouse Macmillan, 1976)

A more detailed list will be distributed later.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered in uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab. Students register for the Humanities Lab modules through an online form, more information will be provided by Umail.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.