Literature, History and Culture

On the basis of lectures, text analysis, film interpretation and class discussions, students gain detailed insight in six historical periods that are considered of essential importance to the cultural identity of the Low Countries:

  • The Dutch ‘Golden Age’; the development of Dutch painting as an alternative to Italian aesthetics, the characteristics of the Dutch tolerance and the development of the Netherlands as the first modern economy in the world.
  • The colonial expansion of the Netherlands and the Dutch involvement in the global slave trade industry.
  • The German occupation during WW II; the importance of Anne Frank as an international symbol for the horrors of the Holocaust.
  • Amsterdam as Europe’s ‘Magic Centre’ in the 1960s; the Netherlands as a symbol of progressive politics.
  • The essential role of the Low Countries in the development of the European Union and the central importance of Brussels as the EU capital.
  • The Netherlands as a multicultural society and the debate on the consequences of migration in the definition of Dutch identity.


Students learn to analyze texts, films and other cultural productions on the basis of close reading/interpretation and by paying attention to the cultural and political context in which they were produced. They study the historical nature of these cultural products and learn to understand their embeddedness in a multicultural context. Dutch classes generally do not exceed 30 students, which enables the instructors to pay considerable attention to interaction with students. Students learn how to formulate well-organized and supported arguments, in both an oral and a written form.