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Lecture | History Brown Bag Seminar

Invisible but influential? Dutch aristocracy since World War II

Wednesday 22 November 2017
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
2.60 (Conference room)

Speaker Jaap Moes:

"The decline and fall of aristocracy with the rise of parliamentary democracy and universal suffrage in the Western World is widely accepted as common knowledge. Nevertheless, for more than a decade now, every year De Volkskrant publishes a remarkable list of the most influential people, the top 200 power brokers in the Netherlands. *) The conclusion that strikes most is that the old elites are disproportionately overrepresented: ‘[…] nearly four out of ten belong to the nobility, the patriciate and the wealthy bourgeoisie, about half of them originate from the middle classes.’

According to the modernisation theory during the 20th century in Western society an ascribed status based on traditional birth characteristics like a noble title was replaced by acquired attributes e.q. a degree in higher education, especially in the post-war period. Nowadays we are said to be living in a meritocracy. The mantra goes: ‘All are equal, so we have the same opportunity to succeed in life’. However, the case of nobility seems to show that a traditional hereditary noble title makes a significant difference in ‘egalitarian’ post-war Dutch society. The academically urgent question is: where are the old elites, and most importantly: are they as influential or even powerful as suggested?

The aim of my research is to contribute to unravelling this scientific mystery by mapping social identity of modern nobility and patriciate in the bourgeois Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1945. In my presentation I will take a glance at historiography of Dutch aristocracy, the available historical sources and empirical evidence collected so far in my quest for a convincing explanation. Your thoughts in solving this fascinating enigma are most welcome indeed!"

*) See e.q. https://www.volkskrant.nl/…/de-volledige-volkskrant-top-20…/and https://www.volkskrant.nl/top-200-van-de-macht-storystream/

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