Universiteit Leiden

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Rosanne Baars


Dr. R.M. Baars
+31 71 527 2720

Rosanne Baars is a NWO-Veni postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for History.

More information about Rosanne Baars


In my research, I attempt to grasp what people in premodern societies knew about the world around them, how they perceived their world, and how they got their information. My main theme is the credibility of news in polarized and religiously divided societies. Who is to be trusted in troubled times of political unrest? Whose authority is deemed credible in verifying or dismantling rumours? 

After graduating cum laude at the University of Amsterdam, I obtained a personal PhD grant from the Dutch Research Council (Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen, 2013) to research the credibility and authority of foreign news sources during the Dutch Revolt and the French Wars of Religion. My book, Rumours of Revolt. Civil War and the Emergence of a Transnational News Culture in France and the Netherlands, 1561-1598 was published by Brill in 2021. My research on news, propaganda and diplomacy has also been published in French History, Renaissance Studies, Early Modern Low Countries and Lias, Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources. I have contributed chapters to various conference volumes and books for general audiences (see ‘Publications’).

Rumours were rife in diplomatic circles in early modern Istanbul. Women played an essential part in gathering intelligence. In this Veni research project, I will analyse a large amount of new data to study the credibility and authority of women as news-gatherers in early modern Istanbul. 

After lectureships in Amsterdam, Nijmegen and Leiden, I was a postdoc in the project ‘Building Peace: Transitional Justice in Early Modern France', based at Groningen University. Servicing the profession, I have worked as a research assistant on national and international projects,  as a crowd-sourcing coordinator at the Huygens Institute REPUBLIC-project, a reviewer for the Journal of Women’s History and French History, as a jury member of the Johan de Witt thesis prize, as a volunteer at the Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam, and as an editor of the Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis. 

The topics of early modern fake news, the authority of women, and credibility in polarized societies echo key problems in our modern world. I have always been passionate about making my research accessible to a wider audience. I have collaborated on museum exhibitions, have extensively given lectures to lay audiences, and have written contributions in Geschiedenis Magazine, Amstelodamum and on history blogs. My popular scientific book Het journaal van Joannes Veltkamp (1759-1764): een scheepschirurgijn in dienst van de Admiraliteit van Amsterdam (WBooks, 2014) is a critical and lavishly illustrated edition of the travel journal of an eighteenth-century Dutch ship’s surgeon, Joannes Veltkamp, to Ottoman-controlled North Africa. The research for the book was funded by a J.C.M. Warnsinck Research Fellowship at het Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam.

Veni project (2024-2027): Women, Intelligence, and Diplomacy in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul

Premodern ambassadors were always male. As a consequence, scholarship has traditionally studied these men and their official missions. Only very recently have historians begun to recognize the vital role of women in premodern diplomacy, introducing the concept of ‘working couples’, where the ambassador and his wife shared diplomatic tasks. This research, however, has focused largely on ambassadors and ambassadresses, while embassies disposed of a large embassy staff of local secretaries, chancellors and translators.

While acknowledging their importance, scholars have found it hard to gauge the role of women in premodern diplomacy, due to a lack of material. Yet for my pioneering work on the Dutch-Levantine community of Istanbul, I found a wealth of unexplored material on local female embassy staff. To further our understanding of the role of women in diplomacy, this project postulates that we should study local women, who, I argue, were essential for the functioning of embassies abroad. These women would undertake the job of gathering intelligence, which was considered one of the key activities within diplomacy, using their local networks and knowledge to inform the ambassadorial couple. 

Istanbul, or Constantinople, was one of the most prestigious diplomatic posts in premodern times. All major Ottoman officials had harems, which were major centers for political intelligence, as their wives and concubines discussed politics and shared the latest news. These harems were only open to other women, making the gathering of intelligence a matter exclusively for women. 

This project has three objectives:

  • To further our knowledge of the diplomatic working couple and female diplomatic intelligence.
  • To analyse the mechanisms behind the credibility of news in polarized and religiously divided societies and the links between gender and authority.
  • To contribute to debates on the position of local ‘Eastern’women in Eurasian diplomacy during the rise of nationalism and orientalism in Europe.

Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae
2024-present: NWO-Veni Postdoctoral Fellow, Leiden University
2022-2023: postdoctoral researcher ‘Building Peace in Early Modern France’, Groningen University
2021-2022: lecturer in Early Modern History, Leiden University
2021: lecturer in Early Modern History, Radboud University, Nijmegen
2021: coordinator crowdsourcing project REPUBLIC, Huygens ING, KNAW
2013-2021: PhD-candidate and lecturer in Early Modern History, University of Amsterdam

2019: PhD, University of Amsterdam
2011: rMA, cum laude, University of Amsterdam
2009: BA, cum laude¸ University of Amsterdam

2024-2027: Veni, Dutch Research Council (NWO)
2013-2017: PhD in the Humanities Grant (NWO)

2023: BYU French Political Pamphlet Fellowship, Provo, Utah
2022: Maddock Research Fellowship, Marsh’s Library, Dublin
2014: Visiting Grant Institut d’histoire de la Réformation, Geneva
2012 Research Fellowship Netherlands Institute in Turkey, Istanbul
2012: Prof. J.C.M. Warnsinck-fellowship, Het Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam


  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Institute for History
  • Algemene Geschiedenis

Work address

Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 1.08A




  • No relevant ancillary activities
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