In the sixteenth century Erasmus wrote: ‘The whole world is my homeland’. Since then, Erasmus’ place of birth, Rotterdam, has grown into an especially diverse port city in which international connections, external influences, and innovative solutions play an important role. For these reasons history beyond borders is a fitting theme for Dutch Historians’ Days 2021 (Historicidagen 2021) which will be jointly organised by the Royal Netherlands Historical Society (KNHG) and the Erasmus University Rotterdam from 26 through 28 August 2021 at this university. This theme also reflects how history is taught and studied in Rotterdam: in an interdisciplinary, transnational and unconventional manner in terms of periodisation and other traditional characterisations of the past.
In this edition of Dutch Historians’ Days, we want to ask whether borders and boundaries are necessary to the study and understanding of history. Can we understand our world through canons of national history without heeding global developments? Is it possible to construct a historical narrative without acknowledging national boundaries? What borders and boundaries are so widely acknowledged as to remain unquestioned? Do representations of history lead necessarily to well-defined and possibly binary juxtapositions in terms of, for instance culture, gender and nationality? How could perspectives from other disciplines inform the historical debate? Are some borders and boundaries useful or perhaps even necessary to communicate and engage with audiences in our times? Or is there no place for borders or boundaries in a world where everyone is connected?
In times when borders and boundaries such as those of the nation-state are being defined and redefined, any debate on borders and boundaries evokes strong emotions that could lead to heated discussions. We invite all parties involved to make their voices heard at the upcoming Historians’ Days so that together we may take the debate on ‘history beyond borders’ yet one step further.