This year we have a great array of workshops, hosted by the following wonderful people!

Iris Busschers


Mission, Religion, Colonialism


When we talk about ‘Calvinism’s conquest in the Dutch community’ from a historical perspective, we need to ask where we perceive the boundaries of that community to be. In the colonial era, ideas and practices of ‘Dutchness’ were not circumscribed to the geographical European area that made up the Netherlands, but were imbricated in a colonial society that stretched beyond those borders to include present-day Indonesia and Surinam. The manner in which Protestant religion was made part of people’s everyday lives was similarly not contained to these borders. For example, efforts to reform the poor in the Netherlands were undertaken by organisations and actors who had ties to or were themselves involved in Protestant missions in the former Dutch East Indies. This workshop begins from a recognition that ‘the Netherlands’ and ‘the colonies’ were not separate entities, and that, as such, the topic of Calvinism in the Netherlands needs to take colonialism seriously. I do so by paying attention to a particular form that Calvinism took, namely efforts to ‘Christianise the heathen’ in colonial Indonesia by Reformed mission societies.


In the past decades, it has become a common place to acknowledge that religious projects such as Protestant missions were part of an imperial world and acted as one of several colonial projects in the British Empire. The same is still a point of discussion (or rather, a point of non-debate) in the context of the Dutch colonies. Dutch imperialism is traditionally viewed as an economic endeavour, where ‘gold’ and ‘glory’ were much more important than ‘God’ ever was. Yet, in the last few years, a small number of historians are turning to religion as a category of analysis when investigating Dutch colonial practices.


In this workshop we will take a closer look at the role of religion, and specifically Reformed missions, in colonial Indonesia. Through a number of sources we will engage with the question in what manner missions can be understood as one of several colonial projects in the Dutch imperial space. Doing so, this workshop focusses on practices rather than theologies, on manifestations of mission ‘on the ground’ rather than on the question what the intensions of missions were.


I. (Iris) Busschers studied history and religious studies at the University of Groningen and has obtained her research master in religion and culture in 2011. She is currently a PhD Candidate, working on her dissertation “Rethinking Missionary Lives: Collective Biography, Missionary Memory, and Historiography in the Context of Dutch Reformed Missions to Papua and East Java, c. 1900—1949." Besides this, Busschers worked as a lecturer in the history of Christianity and of sexuality and gender at the University of Groningen and is board member of the RUG Gender Studies Centre.

Dr. Wim de Jong


Dutch Calvinism and the spirit of capitalism


According to a well-known cliché, calvinists are hard-working, austere, frugal and thrifty citizens. In keeping with the parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew, they feel that one has to ‘proliferate and make the most of your talents’ (woekeren in Dutch, a word which also has associations with usury); instead of putting your talents in the ground, they expand the capital the Lord has provided them with, and don’t spill anything in the process.


Calvinism has had a tremendous influence on Dutch identity. Asked why the Dutch Republic in the 17th Century acquired such unprecedented wealth, scholars often point to the dominance of Calvinism in this period. This link between ‘calvinist’ virtues and the ascent of capitalism was the subject of a famous book by the father of sociology and historian Max Weber, The Protestant Ethi and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905). Luxury was sinful, and charity would only lead to sloth, so the protestants invested their money in enterprises- a godly calling in the secular world.


In this workshop we read excerpts from this book, and some recent newspaper articles, asking ourselves the following questions: is there a morality of capitalism, and is it also part of us? What development do you see in this regard, from the Dutch post-war phase of reconstruction to the 21st century? Do you still see this protestant ethic nowadays in the Netherlands and Europe in general? In short: how does the calvinist ethic influence Dutch identity?


Dr. Wim de Jong studied the history of politics in Utrecht after which he continued with social and political philosophy in Nijmegen. Thereafter he pursued his Ph.D. at the Radboud University Nijmegen, specializing in contemporary political history and the debate on democracy. From 2014 till 2016 he also researched Protestant education for the project ‘100 years freedom of education,’ at the Free University of Amsterdam. Currently he lectures at the History and Art History department of Utrecht University.

Tanja Kootte en Rianneke van der Houwen


This workshop is in Dutch!


Oude en eigentijdse kunst in een calvinistisch perspectief


Tanja Kootte en Rianneke van der Houwen staan bekend als de organisatoren van de grote tentoonstelling "Luther" in het museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. Bij dit evenement stond de vader van het Protestantisme, Luther hemzelf, in de spotlight. Met behulp van spotprenten, kunstwerken en en pamfletten heeft deze monnik zich weten te ontpoppen tot het gezicht van de Reformatie. In deze workshop nemen Rianneke van der Houwen en Tanja Kootte u mee naar de gouden eeuw van de historieschilderkunst, de tijd waarin de bijbelse kunst bloeide. Binnen het calvinisme is het gezag van de Bijbel belangrijk, maar welke invloed had dat op de kunst in die tijd? De nieuwe presentatie Rembrandt en de Gouden Eeuw in Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht is het uitgangspunt voor deze workshop.


Kootte studeerde geschiedenis en kunstgeschiedenis aan de Universiteit van Leiden. Nu is zij curator van het Cathaijneconvent. Van haar zijn exhibities en publicaties zoals ''Thuis in de bijbel: Oude meesters, grote verhalen' (2014) en 'Prachtig Protestant' (2008). Rianneke van der Houwen is junior curator, ook bij het museum Catharijneconvent. Zij studeerde kunstgeschiedenis aan de Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam. Samen werken de kunsthistorici aan een exhibitie over de Bible Belt.

Dr. Tom-Eric Krijger


Calvin and the Dutch: A Match Made in Heaven?


If German-born William of Orange is acknowledged as the founder of the Dutch nation, then French-born John Calvin could easily be identified as the one who provided the Dutch with a characteristic cultural identity. After all, common perception has it that the ‘Genevan reformer’ is the name-giver of characteristics that are assumed to be ‘typically Dutch’, such as frugality, firmness of principles, a strong work ethic, individualism, intellectualism, and egalitarianism. Even though the number of Dutch citizens without church membership has spectacularly increased in the last decades, the term ‘Calvinism’ is still widely used, albeit rather stereotypically, to denote the Dutch national character.


Nowhere was the ‘year of Calvin’, 2009, commemorated with as much enthusiasm, and, paradoxically rather in contravention of ‘Calvinist’ modesty, with as much glamour and glitz as in the Netherlands. Among their co-religionists abroad, Dutch Roman Catholics are said to be notable for their ‘Calvinist’ mentality. Recently, it has been alleged that even Dutch Muslims have appropriated ‘Calvinist’ features. Taking all of this into account, one might expect that the countless Reformed churches in the Netherlands that are rooted in Calvinist theology have always looked at Calvin as their main point of identification, putting him on a pedestal and cherishing his heritage. But is this true?


In this workshop, we will answer this question by reading and discussing nineteenth- and twentieth-century sources, written from the perspective of various theological-ecclesiological currents, on the history of Protestantism and nation building in the Netherlands. As we shall see, the fact that Calvin has come to personify ‘Dutchness’ has more to do with the development of Dutch Protestant church life and Dutch history writing as of the early nineteenth century than with the spread of Calvinist theology in the present-day Netherlands in the sixteenth century.


Dr. T.E.M. (Tom-Eric) Krijger studied history and religious studies in Utrecht and Brussels. In 2017, he obtained his PhD degree at the University of Groningen with a dissertation on the history of Dutch liberal Protestantism between 1870 and 1940. He currently works as a lecturer in the history of Christianity at Leiden University.