PhD position in project on medieval political songs

Last application date
Sep 15, 2017 11:19
LW03 - Department of History
Limited duration
MA in History or Historical Literary Studies
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

PhD position in UGent BOF project "The Diffusion and Reception of Political Songs in the Low Countries, c. 1300 – c. 1570" directed by Jan Dumolyn, in collaboration with Jelle Haemers (KULeuven), Veerle Fraeters (UA), Johan Oosterman (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen)

About the project

In the nineteenth century, ‘historical songs’ (‘historieliederen’), the term that was used at the time, formed a popular object of study for Romantic literary scholars, folklorists and historians. They seemed to represent a ‘folk’ view on historical events reflecting the inner soul of a people. However, even apart from the problem of the now untenable romantic essentialism which was their starting point, the collections made by romantic folklorists but also the later more scholarly and systematic editions by Fredericq (1894) and Van de Graft (1904) hardly employed coherent criteria to delineate their corpus. Neither did they sufficiently analyze the problems of genre, social origin, intended audience, and textual tradition. During the last century, early modern Dutch political songs and poems, and notably those dealing with the Dutch Revolt, have received more scrutiny, particularly the so-called Geuzenliederen (‘Beggar’s Songs’), which famously include the Wilhelmus, since 1932 the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In general, historians of the Reformation have shown the importance of songs in diffusing Protestantism. In contrast to the Geuzenliederen, the more varied corpus of political songs before the 1560s remains sadly understudied. During the last decade, however, several publications such as the edition of the 1544 Antwerp Songbook, a number of seminal case studies and some preliminary overviews of the source material have revealed the great potential of a combined approach of literary and historical perspectives for the study of pre-Reformation political song culture.

This project will build on these findings and will, for the first time, provide a systematic study of the body of later medieval political songs from the Low Countries from a truly interdisciplinary perspective. Thus, it will fill an important lacuna in the historiography of Dutch culture and literature, and will bring Dutch and Flemish scholarship on this topic to the level of English and German scholarship. Therefore, this project aims to inventorize and analyze Middle Dutch political songs before the Dutch Revolt and, more specifically, study their social contexts of production, circulation and performance as well as their perlocutionary effects as instruments for the construction of group identities and social memory. We define ‘political songs’ as a genre defined by a combination of ideological contents, functions, and audiences, in which the social and political message forms a central element. The study of such texts thus provides new ways of obtaining insight into how political communication functioned in a society that was still to a very large degree an ‘aural’ one. Political songs have been at the margins of both literary history and socio-political history but in fact offer excellent opportunities to reflect on the intense relationship between literary production, society and politics in the later medieval period and sixteenth-century. This type of analysis, which for the Low Countries has never been undertaken, involves an innovative combination of research methodologies derived from various disciplines and fields, e.g. the combination of narratological and social network analysis.

Date of appointment: 1st November 2017

Profile of the candidate

Junior researcher committed to delivering a doctoral dissertation on the above topic at the UGent Department of History / the Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies funded by a four-year grant. Competences: A good command of Middle Dutch, paleography and other auxiliary sciences as well as familiarity with original source material are essential. The research for this project entails both archival work and literary analysis.

How to apply

Submit the following documents by email or paper mail to or Ghent University, Department of History,, Attn. Prof. Jan Dumolyn, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 35, 9000 Gent, Belgium, by 15th September 2017 (23:00 CET.):

  • your résumé
  • cover letter
  • a digital copy (pdf) of your MA thesis
  • a copy of your degrees
  • a copy of your transcripts