The Dutch Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley was introduced as a permanent curriculum in the Department of German in autumn 1966. Because the Berkeley campus already had strong offerings in Dutch history, art history, and colonial studies, the introduction of Dutch language and literature was the final step in completing a rounded interdisciplinary curriculum in Dutch Studies.
With the introduction of the Queen Beatrix Chair of Dutch Language, Literature & Culture in 1971, a degree Program in Dutch studies was launched, eventually leading to a Dutch Major. The first incumbent of the chair was Professor Johan Snapper, he was succeeded by Ernst van Alphen in 2004. Presently, Jeroen Dewulf holds the position.
In 1982 a second endowed chair was introduced, the Peter Paul Rubens Chair for Flemish Studies. It was the first Flemish chair endowed in the United States by the government of the Flemish Community in Belgium. This enrichment of the Dutch Studies Program allowed a significant expansion of its course offerings by the annual appointment of outstanding faculty from Flemish universities as visiting professor for a semester. Participating universities are the University of Antwerp, the Free University of Brussels, Ghent University, the University of Hasselt and the Catholic University of Leuven.
In 2012, a PhD program in Dutch Studies was inaugurated, the Designated Emphasis in Dutch Studies.
Visiting scholars and other intellectuals, most notably Dutch, Flemish and Dutch-Caribbean writers, have been actively engaged in the Dutch Studies program. Among them were Adriaan van Dis, Cynthia McLeod, Kader Abdolah, Harry Mulisch, Cees Nooteboom, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Esther Jansma, Marga Minco, Bert Schierbeek, Renate Dorrestein, Hugo Brandt Corstius, Leon de Winter, Jessica Durlacher, Lieve Joris, Paul Verhaeghen, Jan Donkers, and Arthur Japin.
The Dutch Studies Program has distinguished itself over the years as one of the most active academic units on the Berkeley campus. It closely cooperates with the Department of German, the Department of French, the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of History, and the History of Art Department. It also has a close cooperation with the BENELUX Program at the Institute of European Studies.
In the last thirty years the library holdings in Dutch studies have increased to over 125,000 volumes, making Berkeley’s Dutch book collection one of the richest in the United States. The Dutch Studies Program is an active participant in the American Association for Netherlandic Studies and Internationale Vereniging van Neerlandistiek, organization that represent Dutch Studies Program in the United States and in the entire world respectively.
Berkeley’s Dutch Studies is actively supported by the Nederlandse Taalunie, the Dutch Language Union set up in 1980 by treaty between the Netherlands and Belgium. Since 2003, Suriname is also an associated member. The Dutch Language Union promotes and finances projects relating to the Dutch language, literature, education and culture.