CRESR Seminar: The birth of a concept – het burgerlijk beschavingsoffensief – the bourgeois civilising offensive

Start date: 
Wed, 23/10/2013
Closing date: 
Wed, 23/10/2013
Owen 1037
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Will Eadson

Bernard Kruithof - University of Amsterdam


The concept ‘burgerlijk beschavingsoffensief’ (bourgeois civilizing offensive) was coined in 1979 by the Dutch historian Piet de Rooy, in his book on Unemployment in the Netherlands during the Great Depression. Almost 35 years later, the concept has spread widely and proved very flexible, both in academic circles and in the press. It has been used to analyse episodes in the Middle Ages, in departmental papers on the relation between government and the art world, and even to study the role of pot plants in civilizing working class homes. In my presentation I will revisit the origin of the concept and I will try to use the concept as a bridge between history and the social sciences.


Bernard Kruithof (1952) studied history at the University of Amsterdam. In 1977 he started working at the University of Amsterdam in the small department of History of education. He published his article on Het burgerlijk beschavingsoffensief in Symposion, an interdisciplinary and alas short lived journal in 1980. In 1982 he joined the editorial board of the Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift, until its fusion in 2004 with the Sociologische Gids to become the new journal Sociologie. In 1990 he got his doctoral degree with a dissertation on Protestantism and education in the Netherlands, 17th till 20th Century. He is currently teaching interdisciplinary social sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

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