Upcoming events

Macro vs. Micro: The Challenges of Global Intellectual History – Summer School organised with the Huizinga Institute for Cultural History

With key note lectures by dominic sachsenmaier (Georg-August university Göttingen) and andrew fitzmaurice (University of sidney)

WHEN 5 June, 3-5 July

WHERE Utrecht University

Key notes open to all, but (free) registration is required. Please register here for Prof. Sachsenmaier’s lecture, and here for Prof. Fitzmaurice’s lecture.

The summer school for RMa-students and PhD researchers from the Huizinga Institute and other national research schools is now fully booked.

MORE INFORMATION: http://www.huizingainstituut.nl/summer-school-2019/


Worldwide, intellectual history is moving into new, exciting directions. Tapping into new source materials, covering longer stretches of time, dealing with broader geographical spaces, making comparisons and drawing connections on a global scale, as well as combining established and new (digital) methods, both young and up-coming as well as established experts are in search for new answers – and perhaps more importantly – new questions. The aim of the Huizinga Summer school is to discuss the methods and insights of Global Intellectual History with RMa students and PhD researchers.

Since a decade or so, intellectual historians are self-consciously treading the paths of ‘big’ and ‘global’ intellectual history. Established intellectual history methods such as the ‘history of concepts’ (Koselleck) and the ‘history of political languages’ (Pocock) have from their inception pursued long-term chronological and broad geographical enquiries. Yet only recently more self-reflective endeavours have been made to explicate and articulate both the potentialities and challenges of doing intellectual history ‘on a large scale’. In response to criticisms that ‘big intellectual history’ runs the risk of neglecting the specific (cultural, linguistic, political, intellectual, social) contexts in which ideas are embedded, David Armitage has suggested ‘serial contextualism’ as a way to trace ideas through a number of epochs and places. Others have made a case for ‘global comparative history’ to enable comparisons of epoch and places that are not necessarily connected; and yet others stress the need for examining the circulation, transfer, intermeshing, and adaptation of ideas.

Although these are promising and suggestive approaches to intellectual history on a ‘macro level’, they raise the question what role there is left for intellectual history on the ‘micro level’. Is it possible to somehow bring into dialogue the ‘macro’ and the ‘micro’, and if so, how? Furthermore, by focusing on ‘big’ and ‘global’ – and stressing interconnectedness, exchange, and integration – who and what is included and excluded? Surely resistance, conflict, separation, and isolation are also part of big and global intellectual history. Such considerations, finally, raise questions about the use, value, lessons and challenges of big and global intellectual history. Why should we do it? What is its societal value?

Key note Dominic Sachsenmaier (Göttingen)

WHEN Wednesday 3 July, 9.30-11.00

WHERE Utrecht, Academiegebouw, Belle van Zuylenzaal

Abstract: Writing the Global History of a Man Who Never Traveled

Combining global historical and micro-historical perspectives opens up new opportunities for the individual researcher but it also brings new challenges. This talk will present some experiences with writing the book “Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled. A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Christian and his Conflicted Worlds” which was published by Columbia University Press in 2018. It also presents some key arguments of the latter – for instance the idea that we need to pay more attention to the power constellations (local and global) that shaped the religious exchanges during that epoch in the history of Chinese Christianity.


Dominic Sachsenmaier holds a chair professorship in “Modern China with a Special Emphasis on Global Historical Perspectives” at Göttingen University/Germany. Before coming to Göttingen in 2015, he held faculty positions at Jacobs University, Duke University as well as the University of California, Santa Barbara. One of his monographs is “Global Perspectives on Global History. Theories and Approaches in a Connected World” (Cambridge UP, 2011). Dominic  Sachsenmaier is one of the three editors of the book series „Columbia Studies in International and Global History“ (Columbia UP). He is also the president of the US-based Toynbee Prize Foundation and an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Key note Andrew Fitzmaurice (Sidney)

WHEN Thursday 4 July, 9.30-11.00

WHERE Utrecht, Academiegebouw, Belle van Zuylenzaal

Abstract: Micro-Intellectual History and the Limits of the Global Turn

Drawing on his forthcoming book, Professor Andrew Fitzmaurice will advocate an approach combining ‘Micro-Intellectual History’ and social history of ideas. Questioning recent developments in the fields of global intellectual history’ and longue durée intellectual history, he will conclude with some critical perspectives on the societal relevance of the global turn.


Prof. Fitzmaurice’s research has focused upon the ideologies of European empires. His early work concerned the political ideas of early American colonisation. More recently, he has been concerned with Europeans’ justifications for the appropriation of land and sovereignty in the non-European world from the sixteenth century through to the twentieth. His current research project focuses on the role of the British nineteenth-century jurist Sir Travers Twiss in the justification of the Congo Free State. He is the author of: Sovereignty, Property and Empire, 1500-2000 (Cambridge: CUP, 2014); Humanism and America: An intellectual history of English colonisation, 1500-1625 (Cambridge: CUP, 2003). Recent publications include ‘Scepticism of the Civilizing Mission in International Law’, In: M. Koskenniemi, W. Rech, M. Jimenez Fonseca (eds.), International Law and Empire: Historical Explorations (Oxford: OUP).