Geschiedenis en geschiedschrijving zijn zeker niet enkel en alleen binnen de academische muren gehuisvest. Geschiedenis is populair en talloze niet-academici houden zich momenteel, zowel op individuele basis als binnen een historische vereniging, bezig met het verleden. Naar aanleiding van een recente trip naar het schapeneiland Texel bespreek ik de verhouding tussen academische en niet-academische geschiedschrijving. Is het überhaupt relevant om van twee gescheiden werelden te spreken?
Realizing the demands of a modern state – think for instance of complex social security or tax systems – takes more than just a good idea and the intention to make it happen. The role of fully automated systems has increased immensely over the past 50 years and their importance was (and is) sometimes underestimated – with severe consequences. I present the results of a study that investigated a new automation system for the Dutch Student Grants (Studiefinanciering) that was developed and introduced between 1984 and 1988. This example demonstrates how computing systems gained a central position in the execution and realization of a new law on which hundreds of thousands of students depended. The difficulties accompanying the introduction of the law illustrate the extent to which a failure of technology can have an impact on large parts of society.
Throughout the 19th century, ideas concerning embryonic and species development were joined together in a unification that many biologists took to be self-evident. Near the end of that century they split up, however, and embryology was largely left out of the Modern Synthesis of Darwin and Mendel. That is, until several spectacular advances in developmental biology allowed for a re-integration of the two fields a few decades ago. This remarriage has led to such enthusiasm that some practitioners now speak of a ‘More Modern Synthesis’, unifying all of biology under the banner of developmental evolution.
Until the middle of the twentieth century, scholars assumed that in medieval culture authority (auctoritas) was deemed more important than originality. The often-quoted expression attributed to Bernard of Chartres (d. after 1124), master in the cathedral school, that his fellow scholars were like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants has certainly contributed to this view. While this statement contains at least some notion of going beyond the authorities – the dwarfs can see more than the giants –, medieval thinkers belonging to the monastic culture still have the reputation of being slavishly tied to the writings of their predecessors.