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Introducing: Adriejan van Veen

Since February 1, 2015, Adriejan van Veen is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for History. Here, he is preparing a NWO grant proposal on local experiments with candidate selection in British and Dutch politics in the nineteenth century.

Political experiments in history and in the modern world

As a student of History at Utrecht University (where I started in 2002) – and later, as a student of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam – I came to realize that I am most interested in those areas where society and politics meet. More than in high politics per se, I am interested in the ways in which people throughout history have organized – and in the modern world, are organizing – themselves to give shape to their identity, to represent their interests, and to gain access to the public and political spheres. And more often than not, I find the forgotten experiments in the ‘margin’, the oft-neglected nooks and crannies of the societal-political and administrative worlds, to be more fascinating than the forms that we all have become familiar with.

In 2007, as an exchange student in Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and as a policy intern at the democratic reform group Common Cause in Washington DC, I experienced firsthand how a public interest group that claims to be an alternative to political parties and lobbies, works in practice today; this made me interested in learning more about this.

Back in Utrecht, I wrote my Research Master’s thesis in History about the  Kamers van Arbeid (‘Chambers of Labour’) (1897-1922), local experimental bodies of conciliation between workers and employers that were long seen as unsuccessful, but turned out to have been rather important experiments in democratic representation. For example, they were the first public bodies in the Netherlands to give women full voting rights.

Regulation without representation?

Then joining in the NWO-project ‘Alternatives for Parliamentary Democracy’, led by prof. Ido de Haan at Utrecht University, I wrote my dissertation ‘Regulation without Representation?’ about modern-day independent regulatory authorities. I argue that such quite recently established authorities, like the  Autoriteit Financiële Markten and  Autoriteit Consument en Markt, if properly embedded in accountable structures and consulting with a wide range of representative groups, can have important functions as representatives of consumers on liberalized marketplaces.

Selection before election?

At Leiden University, I am now going back to my favorite historical time period: the nineteenth century. Here, I am preparing a NWO grant proposal about experiments with candidate selection in Great Britain and the Netherlands in the years immediately after the introduction of electoral reforms (1832 and 1848). Because of the later ascendance of political parties, these local experiments are often forgotten, but archival resources indicate they were more innovative than previously thought. By comparing these experiments between countries I hope to generate greater public knowledge about the way in which people can take advantage of new political systems by conducting experiments.

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