On the 22nd of October, ACUH member Tymen Peverelli will defend his PhD thesis entitled 'The town as fatherland: The past of Bruges, Leeuwarden and Maastricht in the age of the nation-state, 1815-1914'. During the nineteenth century the past was used to shape and proclaim cultural nationalism. Especially in the Low Countries nationalist identity activists turned to the history of the various cities and towns to construct a suitable historical narrative. The lettered inhabitants of those places either enthusiastically participated in or forcefully rejected this attempt at cultural appropriation.
This thesis investigates the broad spectrum of mixed feelings that these ‘erudites’ (i.e. scholars, writers, poets, architects, clergymen and tourism boosters) cultivated vis-à-vis the nation-state in Bruges, Leeuwarden, and Maastricht between 1815 and 1914. After the establishment of the nation-state in the nineteenth century these provincial towns had lost their former self-conscious and relative autonomous position. Local erudites reacted to this perceived loss by propagating urban identity politics through history-writing, literature, pageants, statues, heritage preservation and tourism. Historians have by and large underestimated the continuing relevance of urban identification in the age of the nation-state. However, many nineteenth-century urban erudites, specifically those in the national peripheries, rejected any attempt at the incorporation of the urban past in the national memory culture. This PhD these aims to shed new light on the sometimes problematic relationship between urban and national identification in nineteenth-century Belgium and the Netherlands.
The thesis will be published in book form by Vantilt, and is available from the same date onwards.