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Introducing: Geert Ham

In September 2023, Geert Ham started working at the Institute for History as a PhD candidate within the project 'Anchoring Innovation'. Below he introduces himself.

It is an exciting thing to be able to begin a PhD in one’s alma mater! I started with the BA History here in Leiden in 2017, and was soon awestruck by the possibilities of working directly with primary sources and by the large university library. Although I was already a motivated student, my passion was fully ignited in 2019 when I followed a course on the Roman emperor Constantine at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome, for which our own Rens Tacoma was one of the instructors. In the last year of my BA, I followed a multidisciplinary range of subjects on antiquity as part of a self-selected minor, and I wrote my thesis under the supervision of Kim Beerden on the imperialistic undertones in De re coquinaria, a Roman recipe bundle.

I remained in Leiden for my Research Master, which began in the midst of the covid pandemic. During the first year of the Master, I was also employed as student assistant, with the goal to support lecturers of history with making the transition to online education. It was during the period of my Master that I gained a greater interest in studying materiality and ancient processes of cultural interaction. Under the auspices of Miko Flohr, I wrote my thesis on the appropriation of Greek artistic and architectural styles in the suburban estates of ancient Rome. In order to be able to visit the relevant museums and archaeological sites, I applied for an accommodation at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome, where I was able to stay and study for seven incredible weeks in autumn of 2022. After working myself through many museum catalogues, early-twentieth-century Italian archaeological reports, and Roman descriptions of their villae, I finished my thesis and my Research Master as a whole in summer of 2023.

I had already been orientating myself for how I could follow up on my studies after graduation, and I applied in spring of 2023 for a PhD position within the research project Anchoring Innovation. This was an exciting process – I did not know quite what to expect, and this was the last series of openings for PhD-candidates within the project – but I eventually got the good news that I had been selected for the job! For the next four years, I will be researching spaces in Hellenistic Egypt where art and architecture in Egyptian and Greek styles appeared side-by-side, and the ways in which these combinations and contrasts may have affected ancient onlookers. Although I have mostly worked with Roman history in the past, I have always had a broad interest, and do not mind the chance to learn more about periods, regions, and civilisations which I have less experience with. Here in Leiden, with the National Museum of Antiquities, the Netherlands Institute for the Near East, and (eventually) the new Middle Eastern Library around the corner, I have sufficient confidence that I am in the right place for my research!

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