Written by Hans Wallage | Published on 02/12/2019
Last Wednesday, on November 27th, our postdoc David finally became a real “post-doc” by obtaining his PhD from Leiden University and University of Konstanz. The formalities started with a Lekenpraatje, in which David explained his research to a general audience. One hour later, he defended his dissertation Religious Persecution and Transnational Compassion in the Dutch Vernacular Press, 1655-1745 against an opposition committee consisting of Mirjam de Baar (Leiden), Jeroen Duindam (Leiden), Peter Hoppenbrouwers (Leiden), Sven Trakulhun (Konstanz), David Onnekink (Utrecht), and Helmer Helmers (Amsterdam). As per Dutch tradition, the candidate was flanked by his two paranimfen, Yvonne Engels and Monika Barget.
David had to defend his dissertation for exactly 45 minutes, after which the beadle walked into the Great Auditorium and cut off the discussion by proclaiming hora est (“it is time”). Upon receiving his diploma, the fresh doctor was allowed to leave his autograph on the wall in the old Zweetkamertje (“sweat room”). Of course, the other team members (except Gerdien who cheered him on from the archives of Salamanca) of the Invention of the Refugee were there to offer vital moral support.
In his doctoral thesis, supervised by Judith Pollmann (Leiden) and Malte Griesse (Konstanz), David investigated the transnational coverage of religious persecution in the Dutch press, ca. 1650-1750. In the United Provinces, a dominant news hub in the early modern period, numerous newspapers, pamphlets, and periodicals flowed from the presses to confront news consumers throughout Europe with the plight of foreign communities. To reach and affect their audiences, opinion makers had to answer a fundamental question, which we still grapple with in our own times: Why should we care about distant suffering? In his dissertation David analyzed, first, which arguments were used to communicate religious persecution in a period that is often approached in terms of political secularization. Second, he identified which stakeholders were engaged in the international production of topical persecution literature, and examined who they saw as their audience. Finally, tying in with the nascent historiography of early modern ‘public diplomacy’, he explored the role which topical persecution literature played in domestic and international politics.
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