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Controlling Time and Shaping the Self

NWO Vernieuwingsimpuls

Scope, relevance and approach

The proposed project covers the period 1750-1914 in the Netherlands. This period includes the age in which the modern consciousness of time took shape (1750-1850), as well as the long nineteenth century (1789-1914) in which this had a continued effect.

The project is relevant because, for the first time, the history of the perception of time and of historical reflection will be studied in relation to one another, as well as in relation to two other important cultural changes taking place around 1750: the revolution in reading, writing and publishing, and the birth of modern pedagogy. Thus, the project will have an exemplary function for an international audience. It will, moreover, contribute to discussions about the history of individualization.

The results of this research will be placed in a European perspective using literature on England, Germany and France for each of the topics we explore. Influences from these countries on developments in the Netherlands will be taken into account. Since an interdisciplinary approach is indispensable for this project, our analysis will incorporate insights and methods current in cultural history, history of mentalities, literary studies and literary history, history of pedagogy and, the history of books. The results of the inventory of Dutch egodocuments, both in print and in manuscript, covering the period 1500-1914 will be used. This NWO-project is now being carried out by the applicant for the period 1814-1914. Selections from three relevant text types will be made: (a) a list of manuscript diaries, (b) a list of manuscript autobiographies, and (c) a bibliography of printed and commercially published autobiographies. They will be taken from the already published database for the period 1500-1814, and from the almost completed database for the period 1814-1914 . Only in the Netherlands have autobiographical texts been made systematically accessible on such a large scale. This cutting-edge position offers an excellent point of departure for the proposed project.