Monthly Archives: April 2019

Shifts in perspective: the life and legacies of Johan Maurits, count of Nassau-Siegen

Detail from the portrait of Johan Maurits, Count of Nassau-Siegen,, by Jan de Baen. c. 1668–70. (The Mauritshuis, The Hague)

For those who would like to know more about Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen (1604–1679), the early modern figure at the centre of the latest batch of letters to be published in EMLO, it is worth reading the literature that surrounds the latest exhibition to open at the Mauritshuis. Or, better still, to carve out time to visit the museum should occasion arise in The Hague. Shifting Image — In Search of Johan Maurits examines the life of this Count of Nassau-Siegen from a number of pertinent and fresh perspectives.

Johan Maurits served as Governor-General at the Dutch Republic’s first large plantation colony in current-day Brazil. The colony, with its sugar plantations and mills, had been captured from the Portuguese and remained in the possession of the Dutch for a quarter of a century until 1654. The exploitation of, and the accumulation of vast profits from, the area form—as this exhibition investigates—’a crucial episode in the history of the Dutch slave trade’. In the context of the Governor’s life, the lens is brought to focus on his role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Johan Maurits left for Brazil in 1636. Over the course of the following eleven years, while the transport took place of thousands of men, women, and children from the west coast of Africa to the north-east coast of Brazil, the Mauritshuis was designed, built, and furnished in The Hague to the Governor’s specifications. Johan Maurits proved a considerable patron, encouraging such artists as Frans Post and Albert Eckhout, and commissioning Caspar Barlaeus and Franciscus Plante to write Rerum per octennium in Brasilia (1647) and Mauritias (1647) respectively. This exhibition questions how objective these artistic and literary interpretations of the Governor’s own role and the Dutch involvement in Brazil might be, given their purpose and dependence upon Johan Maurits’s funding. Not content merely with covering costs, Johan Maurits elected to keep a firm hand on the output of his munificence and in the creation of his own image, taking it upon himself to edit Barlaeus’s text. And in an approach that has not always been employed as a matter of course in the history of art and of patronage, visitors to the exhibition are asked to weigh up the probable reality underlying such landscapes as Post’s View of the Island of Itamaracá, the first known painting in which enslaved people are depicted in ‘Dutch Brazil’.

Detail from ‘Study of Two Brazilian Tortoises’, by Albert Eckhout. c. 1640. (The Mauritshuis, The Hague)

What survive as visual and written records of this colony at the time of Johan Maurits, partial though these might be, are nonetheless invaluable as documentary evidence for the individuals concerned. We are able to refer to the maps charted, to the illustrations and scientific descriptions of fauna and flora recorded, and—of course—to surviving correspondence. Johan Maurits left his post as Governor-General in 1644.

The forty-six letters uploaded to EMLO to coincide with this exhibition in Johan Maurits’s former residence have been contributed by Dr Ineke Huysman and her project team at the Huygens ING as part of their work on the correspondence inventory for Johan de Witt. Dating between 1653 and 1670, the letters are those sent from the former Governor-General to the Grand Pensionary of Holland, and each record is linked to an image of the manuscript held at the Nationaal Archief in The Hague. The synchronicity of the listing of these letters in EMLO and the exhibition at the Mauritshuis offers a timely opportunity to consider Johan Maurits both within the context of the work-in-progress catalogue of Johan de Witt and in the broader perspective of Dutch and of global history, contrasting—as this exhibition does so well—early modern attitudes and beliefs with those held today.

‘View of Itamaracá Island in Brazil’, by Frans Post. 1637. (The Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Paris-Oxford Research Fellowship in Digital Humanities

As part of a collaboration between Oxford and the Sorbonne, we are delighted to announce the new call for applications for a three-year fully funded fellowship open to students wishing to pursue doctoral studies in the history of science, in mathematical sciences, in digital humanities, or in computer science. Details of the fellowship are set out below, both in English and in French.

Paris-Oxford Research Fellowship in Digital Humanities

Recent progress in digital humanities has transformed research in the history of science: large quantities of data, the collation of which would formerly have required time-consuming visits to libraries and archives, have been made available; manuscript and book collections are accessible online; and investigations across a range of related resources become ever easier. In consequence, historical investigations can be contextualized better, studies of networks taken to a new level, and analysis conducted across increasingly large quantities of data and metadata.

Applications are open currently for a fellowship that will offer the successful doctoral student the opportunity to undertake research over a period of three years at two of the most prestigious institutions in Europe: Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Oxford. Applicants should have a background in one or more of the following four disciplines: digital humanities, history of science, mathematics, or computer science. They should demonstrate experience of historical study alongside evident ability in the field of digital humanities or data sciences.

Thesis topics might combine any area of the history of science with an approach in digital humanities. In particular, proposals exploring innovative digital or computer-based approaches for research in the history of mathematical sciences or on early modern correspondence will be welcome, as will those involving investigation into how the development of digital analysis, research, and visualization tools can contribute to new research on scientific and/or epistolary corpuses.

This programme forms part of a scientific collaboration between the Sorbonne’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. The successful doctoral student will work within the ‘Digital Humanities’ team at the Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) of Sorbonne University (Paris, France) and will conduct a period of research at the University of Oxford (UK), either within the framework of the Cultures of Knowledge research project/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] at the Faculty of History, or of the Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, or of the Mathematical Institute. The student will benefit from a three-year funding grant from the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University.

Further information regarding this opportunity is available from Alexandre Guilbaud ( or Miranda Lewis (

To apply, please send a copy of your CV and an outline of your planned research project to Alexandre Guilbaud ( before the closing date of 14 June 2019.


Bourse de recherche Paris-Oxford en humanités numériques

Les progrès récents accomplis dans les humanités numériques ont transformé la recherche dans le domaine de l’histoire des sciences : des quantités importantes de données, dont le rassemblement aurait autrefois demandé de nombreuses et longues visites de bibliothèques et d’archives, ont été mises à disposition, des collections de manuscrits et de livres sont accessibles en ligne, et les recherches à travers un éventail de ressources connexes n’ont jamais été aussi faciles. En conséquence, les recherches historiques peuvent être mieux contextualisées, des études de réseaux amenées à un autre niveau, l’analyse peut être réalisée à travers des quantités de plus en plus grandes de données et de métadonnées.

Les candidatures sont ouvertes pour une allocation de recherche qui offrira au doctorant retenu l’opportunité d’entreprendre des recherches sur une période de trois ans au sein de deux des institutions les plus prestigieuses d’Europe : Sorbonne Université à Paris et l’Université d’Oxford. Les candidats devront avoir une formation dans une ou plus des quatre disciplines suivantes : les humanités numériques, l’histoire des sciences, les mathématiques ou l’informatique. Ils devront démontrer qu’ils possèdent une expérience des études historiques ainsi que des compétences manifestes dans le domaine des humanités numériques ou des sciences des données.

Les sujets pourront associer n’importe quel domaine de l’histoire des sciences avec une approche en humanités numériques. En particulier, les propositions explorant des approches numériques ou informatiques innovantes pour des recherches en histoire des sciences mathématiques ou des recherches sur les correspondances de l’ère moderne seront bienvenues, de même que les problématiques s’intéressant à la façon dont le développement d’outils d’analyse, de recherche de visualisation numériques peut contribuer à de nouvelles recherches sur les corpus scientifiques et/ou épistolaires.

Ce programme s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une collaboration scientifique entre la Faculté des Sciences et Ingénierie de l’Université de la Sorbonne et la Faculté d’Histoire de l’Université d’Oxford. Le candidat sélectionné travaillera au sein de l’équipe ‘Humanités numériques’ à l’Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) de Sorbonne Université (Paris, France) et effectuera une période de recherche à l’Université d’Oxford (Royaume-Uni), soit dans le cadre du projet Cultures of Knowledge/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] à la Faculté d’Histoire, ou du Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, ou de l’Institut de Mathématiques. Le doctorant bénéficiera d’une allocation doctorale de trois ans financée par la Faculté des Sciences et Ingénierie de Sorbonne Université.

De plus amples renseignements concernant cette opportunité sont disponibles auprès d’Alexandre Guilbaud ( ou de Miranda Lewis (

Pour poser votre candidature, veuillez envoyer une copie de votre CV et un résumé du projet de recherche envisagé à Alexandre Guilbaud ( avant la date du 14 Juin 2019.