Utrecht, Netherlands

Discovering the Dutch: Dutch Culture and Society

when 22 July 2024 - 16 August 2024
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 8 EC
fee EUR 1550

This special track explores the question of Dutch identity by placing the history of the Netherlands and Dutch art in a wider European and transatlantic perspective. You will be introduced to the rich cultural traditions that the Netherlands developed from the Dutch Golden Age to the present day in such artistic fields as painting, literature, poetry and filmmaking. You will also analyse internationally debated issues in Dutch society in the past and present. These include traditions of literacy, cosmopolitanism, and tolerance as well as more practical issues including euthanasia and the internationally well-known drugs policy.

This course is devoted to four specific themes: History (1), Art (2), Society (3) and Contemporary Issues (4).

Theme 1: Dutch Identity and History - We will start with several lectures that will give you insight in distinctive historical periods of Dutch history. Topics that will be discussed include: development of the Netherlands during the Middle Ages, the Dutch religious landscape and the prints and cartography of the Dutch Golden Age. We will make good use of the fact that the course is taught in the beautiful medieval city of Utrecht. You will be able to really step into history through a historical city walk and a visit to one of Utrecht's excellent museums.

Theme 2: History of Art & Architecture - Within the historical context of the preceding topics, you will be introduced to the cultural expressions and traditions that support the Dutch in their claim to international fame as a cultural nation. During this part of the course, lecturers will discuss early modern, modern and contemporary art and architecture in the Netherlands, including Land Art, touching upon famous artists such as Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Judith Leyster, Vincent van Gogh, Mondrian, Charley Toorop, Rineke Dijkstra, Iris van Herpen and others. This week a day trip to Amsterdam takes place, where you will visit among other places, the Rijksmuseum.

Theme 3: Society - During the third week, lecturers will discuss the most characteristic institutions and arrangements of Dutch society. This includes the welfare state and the polder model but also the actual lay-out of the country. Since the Dutch live in a small geographical space, environmental planning and engineering have always been of vital importance. Another crucial feature of Dutch planning is water management. You will learn about the real role of the typical windmills that you can find all over the Netherlands. A trip to the Maeslantkering, part of the larger Delta Works, is included in the program.

Theme 4: Contemporary Issues - This topic explores public debates in Dutch society at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Topics discussed are religious diversity and secularization, immigration and integration and Dutch traditions of cooperation reflected in the presence of the Peace Palace and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. You will have various lectures and seminar groups during which you are expected to participate in discussions on Dutch society and to work on assignments. There will be a full day excursion to The Hague which includes a visit to the Dutch Parliamentary building (Binnenhof).

Course leader


Target group

The programme is open to students from all discipline. The course will focus on the humanities and social sciences

Course aim

This course introduces participants to the history, society, art and culture of the Netherlands. By studying Dutch society, art and culture in an international context, you will be offered an incentive to reflect anew on your own culture and society in an international atmosphere.

Fee info

EUR 1550: Course + course materials
EUR 850: Housing fee (optional)

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