Anniversary competition: the future of history

Because of the Royal Netherlands Historical Society (KNHG) anniversary year of 2020, the board of our organisation has launched a competition on



Historians are used to looking back. This enables them to put their knowledge and skills to work for today’s society. Historians rarely look forward to the (far) future. This has traditionally been the domain of natural sciences, for instance in climate discussions, and the social sciences. Usually, historians perceive what they see as the self-proclaimed futurologists and ‘trend-watchers’ who are employed by the government and in business with distrust. Nonetheless, historians should could be able to play a role in the description of the future.

Historian David Staley wrote a book in 2007 which boosted the intriguing title of History and Future. Using Historical Thinking to Imagine the Future. In this book, Staley argues that historical methodology is excellently equipped for imagining the future. Not by searching for patterns in the past and by translating these to the future, but by applying history-as-method to the future.

This competition requests to reflect on the future of ‘history in the Netherlands’ in all its aspects, from heritage sites and museums, too (scientific) education and research, and to envision that reflection on the future.


Based on the outcome of this competition, the board of the KNHG wishes to organise a session on the future of history with the winning contributor at the Historicidagen 2021 in Rotterdam.


The answer may be implemented in every desired execution (podcast, artwork, cartoon, essay etc.), as long as the above-proposed question is answered. Apart from this, the entry must comply with the following requirements:

  • Made exclusively for this competition
  • Reproducible
  • The KNHG has to be able to distribute the entry free of copyright
  • In case of a written answer, the entry may not exceed 5000 words and cannot be published at an earlier date


To be eligible for appreciation, the answer must be sent in and received by the KNHG before the 31st of March. Entry’s that are received after the 1st of April will not be reviewed. Entered papers may be written in either Dutch and English. Entries may be sent digitally to or through mail to postbus 10855, 1001 EW Amsterdam. Any other potential form can be delivered to the office of the KNHG: Oostindisch Huis, Korte Spinhuissteeg 3, 1012 CG Amsterdam citing prijsvraag jubileum. The rules for the competition can be downloaded in PDF (in the margin to the right).


Entries will be judged by an expert jury consisting of Prof. em. Ed Jonker (Utrecht University), dr. Pieter Slaman (Leiden University) and Martine Gosselink MA (Rijksmuseum). Secretary of the jury without a vote is director of the KNHG bureau Antia Wiersma.

The entry has to be delivered with the name and contact details of the sender in a separate envelope. The entry and the envelope are both marked, so the sender and the entry can be linked while anonymity is guaranteed.

The assessment will be carried out by the jury between the 1st of April and the 1st of July 2020. The decision of the jury is final. All participants will be notified of the jury’s decision, which will be under embargo until the festive announcement of the winner.


The prize is a publication of the entry, which the KNHG will distribute to all members and relations. The winning entry will be handed out at the yearly conference of the KNHG in the autumn of 2020. For this momentous occasion, trade journals, press and other interested parties will be notified.


Further inquiries can be made with the director of the bureau of the KNHG, Antia Wiersma (by phone 020 – 2264828 or by email

Editorials and other organisations which wish to direct their readership’s attention to this competition (but do not wish to print it in whole), are urgently requested to point potential contributors to the competition statement, so they are aware of the above-stated provisions.


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