Researcher: Fons Meijer
Supervisors: Lotte Jensen and Jan Hein Furnée
The nineteenth century marks a new era in two respects: firstly, the Netherlands was transformed into a kingdom with a centralised government; secondly, nationalism became the dominant paradigm pervading writings throughout the century. These elements play a major role in disaster discourses as well, which both reflected and propagated a growing tendency to perceive disasters from a national, politicised perspective.
The printed media played an essential role in mobilising people to donate to the victims and was increasingly used by the respective kings (Louis Napoleon, Willem I, Willem II and Willem III) to present themselves as true crisis managers and loving fathers of the nation. The year 1807 can be considered a turning point, when the first national collection was held to help the citizens of Leiden after a gunpowder explosion. This tendency towards national solidarity can also be witnessed in other disasters, such as the floods of 1808/09, 1825 and 1861, the famine of 1846/47 or the severe winter of 1890. This project will investigate what elements were characteristic for Dutch nationalist discourse. At the same time, it must pay attention to the extent to which local and regional identities persisted, as some of the narratives were embedded in a local context, and some regions were more vulnerable than others.
Furthermore, it must take into account that new genres were introduced such as the illustrated magazine and that new technological inventions such as the telegraph and the railway system made news travel much faster than before. There was a commercial side to this as well: disasters sold well, then as now. The more shocking the news, the higher the sales figures.