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Partnership with Roosevelt Institute gives impetus to American Studies

It's easier to understand Trump's America if you have a sound knowledge of the country's history. Research on the US has been given an impetus with the renewed Roosevelt Institute for American Studies. The institute in Middelburg reopened on 20 April with Leiden University as a key partner.

Better understanding of Trump's America

The reopening was celebrated on 20 April in the presence of the Mayor of Middelburg, the King's commissioner in Zeeland and the city poet. Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker and Professor Giles Scott-Smith talked about the importance of the institute. In Stolker's words: 'Knowledge of American political history is essential to understand why it is possible for someone like Trump to become president in a strongly polarised world. And an understanding of the shared values on which the Atlantic community is built is crucial to offer a counterweight to a world in which authoritarian leaders are on the rise. It's fantastic that our University can play a significant role in advancing knowledge of American studies.'  

The RIAS is located in the 13th-century monastery complex in Middelburg

Impetus for American Studies in the Netherlands

The collaboration between Middelburg and Leiden means a powerful impetus for American Studies in the Netherlands, Giles Scott-Smith stressed. Scott-Smith, Leiden Professor of the Diplomatic History of Transatlantic Relations, will head the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies (RIAS), together with the Sacker Professor of American History, who is yet to be appointed. The research institute is located in a medieval monastery complex in Middelburg and has an extensive library and a conference centre. 

Leiden University strong in expertise on America

In recent years the centre, founded in 1986 under the name of the Roosevelt Study Center, has not offered places to PhD candidates. The institution worked with several different universities and was looking for a strong partner to be able to facilitate more sustainable research. Leiden University, with its expertise on America and its master's programme in North American Studies, was a good match, according to Scott-Smith. PhD positions in American Studies are scarce in the Netherlands. Thanks to the strong cooperation with Leiden and extra support from the Province of Zeeland, four to five new PhD candidates will be appointed in the coming year. They will work in the documentation centre of the institute in Middenburg and also make use of the facilities at Leiden University, where they will defend their PhD.   

Research centre for the whole of society

RIAS is not only open for PhD candidates; Scott-Smith will have his Leiden students carry out research in Middelburg, and students from other universities will also be welcome. RIAS is also expressly an expertise centrum for the whole of society. Guest speakers from the Netherlands and the US will give lectures on current topics that play a role in both countries. On 24 May there will be a workshop with speakers from the Netherlands and the US on care for the elderly who are homosexual or transgender. A number of American states, such as California, are at the forefront in this area. Scott-Smith: ‘The Netherlands and  America can learn from one another, and the RIAS will serve as a locus for sharing as much of this information as possible.'  

The Roosevelt Institute for American Studies is named after President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) and Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Their predecessors left the island of Tholen in Zeeland and emigrated to America. In 1982, celebrations were held in Middelburg and elsewhere to mark 200 years of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and the US and the 100th birthday of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This trans-Atlantic partnership led to the initiative to establish the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg. 

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