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Florian Herrendorf wins Fruinprijs 2023

Florian Herrendorf has won the Fruin Prize 2023. His thesis was chosen out of 11 nominees as the best master's thesis in history studies.


The prize was awarded on 5 September 2023 in the Grand Auditorium of the Academy Building during the opening of the academic year of the Institute of History. Under the guidance of Cátia Antunes, Herrendorf wrote what the jury considered to be an exceptionally accomplished thesis: 'Colonial mismanagement? The organisation and operation of the government of the WIC colony of Angola, 1641-1648'.

Its starting point is the decline of the first West India Company in the seventeenth century. Inspired by historians who attribute this decline to local administrative relationships, Herrendorf includes local governance in Angola in the explanations for the WIC's eventual demise in 1674.

This approach is remarkable, as Angola was only briefly in the hands of the WIC and partly for that reason has been neglected by historians. Herrendorf reconstructs the colonial administration in Angola during this period based on rich but by no means easy sources from the National Archives. The jury recognised that this must have been an enormous task. With his micro-perspective on Angola, Herrendorf provides an important building block at the macro level to explain why the WIC ultimately failed.

The Angolan case study shows that local colonial mismanagement was a very important cause of the Company's downfall. In Herrendorf's words, 'The WIC did fine for as long as it functioned as a privateering company and a naval warfare instrument. However, as an empire builder and administrator, the Company failed miserably.'

Other nominations

No fewer than 11 theses were nominated for the Fruin Prize this year. Besides the winner, they were (in random order): 

  • Andrés Bijsterveld Muñoz, Virtual nation building: The (re)construction of national histories in Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (supervised by Eric Storm);
  • John Gaffey, Subjugating Sympathy. The Rhetoric of Sympathy and Compassion in French Atlantic Pro-Slavery Discourse (1640-1789) (supervised by Felicia Rosu);
  • Philipp Huber, Guns for the King: Dutch-Siamese Firearms Transfers, 1656-1709 (supervised by Jos Gommans);
  • Bojan Manasijev, Sensing the Κάβειροι: Sensory Religion of the Kabeiric Cult on Land and at Sea (supervised by Kim Beerden);
  • Marie Keulen, Spreading Afro-Protestantism: Afro-Caribbean Christianity and the Growth of Methodism during the Caribbean Great Awakening, 1760-1810 (supervised by  Michiel van Groesen);
  • Bryan Burgess, NGOs and Refugee Relief at a Crossroads: The International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Council of Churches, and an emerging United Nations in Palestine 1947-1953 (supervised by Marlou Schrover);
  • Nikita Krouwel, Freedom, Independence, and Belonging: Reconstructing and Reimagining Afro-Atlantic Lives in The Hague, 1720-1770 (supervised by Karwan Fatah-Black);
  • Janis Oomen, Somewhere in-between: The alumni of Roman Italy as part of an informal fosterage system and their position within the Roman household (supervised by Rens Tacoma);
  • Indira Huliselan, ‘New Year, New Me?’ ‘Crisis’ of Continuity and Coherence in the Anthropology of Ignatius and Paul (supervised by Jürgen Zangenberg);
  • Henrike Vellinga, The War Resister’s Dilemma: On the Radical Pacifist Struggle with Anti-Imperialism in War Resisters’ International (1925-1930) (supervised by Anne Heyer).

Fruin Prize

The Fruin Prize has been awarded annually to the best master's thesis in history studies of Leiden University since 1989. The prize consists of a certificate, a bouquet of flowers and a sum of money. Robert Fruin, after whom the prize is named, was the first professor of Fatherland History at Leiden University. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the science of history in the Netherlands.

This year, the jury consisted of chairman Jasper van der Steen of the master’s programme in Europe 1000-1800, Bart Verheijen of the master’s in  Colonial and Global History, and Liesbeth Claes of the master’s in Ancient History.

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