De Utrechtse Historische Studenten Kring (or the Utrecht History Student Society) is a Dutch association of history students, founded at the University of Utrecht in 1926. Our ex-board member and honorary member Helen Heskes has archived our entire history in the early ‘90s. On this page, you’ll find how the UHSK has developed over time.

1926-1931: formation and the first years

On March the 5th, 1926, the UHSK was founded on the initiative of T.S. Jansma and J.J. Beyerman. During the first years, the character of the association took form, whereby in 1931 the first house rules were established. The history of the History Institute of Utrecht officially starts in 1921. In that year the Institute for Medieval History was founded, by the Drift. Henceforth it became possible to graduate solely in history. The Drift also housed the Institute for classical languages and the reading room for new history, headed by famous historian G.W. Kernkamp. There were no more than ten students of history at the time. These were the students that founded the UHSK on the 5th of March 1926. The minutes of the founding meeting have been preserved. The gentlemen T.S. Jansma and J.J. Beyerman were the initiators. At the meeting, they proposed to promote the cooperation between historians and convoked the attendees to become members of het Utrechtsch Studenten Corps (the Utrecht Student Corps). The latter was attested, and instead, it was decided to found an independent association for history students. On the 23rd of March, the name UHSK was chosen. The goal of the society was thus to promote cooperation between historians. The first house rules from 1931 show more about the character of the association. Article two proceeds as follows: ‘The goal of the society is, outside the scope of existing general student associations, to foster a connection between all the history students at the University of Utrecht.’ And article three: ‘the society bears the character of a study club.’ It was hoped to achieve this goal by hosting readings, excursions and yearly general assemblies.

1931-1936: readings and a lustrum

In the house rules, it was stated that organising readings was one of the core tasks of the UHSK. In the early ‘30s, the first readings were organised, oftentimes in cooperation with other organisations and associations. In 1936 the UHSK celebrated its tenth anniversary and its second lustrum. Before the war, it was commonplace to combine a meeting with a reading. Hosting readings was, according to the first house rules, an official task of the UHSK. These were provided by both external speakers and by UHSK members. The first reading mentioned in the archives was hosted in 1935. The theme was ‘Eastern and Western Influences in Russian History’, the speaker was professor Raptinsky. Readings were, as per the house rules, frequently organised with other associations. Often these co-operations were with the literary faculty of the USC, with which the UHSK had strong bonds before the war. In 1938 UHSK hosted a reading about ‘the Great-Dutch Notion’, in cooperation with the Dietsch student association. According to a letter from 1951, written by Mr. J.A.J. de Leeuw, the lectures before the war were very memorable. 

Another activity of the UHSK was hosting excursions. Quite a bit of correspondence about these excursions made the archive. The first trip was in 1932, to the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (the state museum of Antiquity) in Leiden. In 1936 UHSK visited the township archive in Dordrecht, where one of our founders, Mr. Beyerman, was employed. There were also frequent trips to other student cities. These were hosted by the Organisatie van Studenten Geschiedenis in Nederland (the organisation of students of history in the Netherlands), which united all dutch history associations. In 1936 the UHSK existed for ten years, to celebrate this second lustrum a car ride through the Betuwe and a feast in historical attire was hosted. Ex-members also attended. The aforementioned letter of Mr. De Leeuw paints a nice picture of what UHSK was like in this period.

1936-1946: the UHSK before and during the war

Student- and study- associations were mostly forced to a halt during the war, this was also the case for the UHSK. Nonetheless, a few attempts were made to keep the association alive. Either way, UHSK did not come out of the war unscathed. How UHSK fared before and during the Second World War, is made apparent by interviews with members from that time, in the lustrum bundle of 1986. Before the war, the UHSK had not taken a stand against national socialism, because the board considered the association too small for that. The UHSK played no role in the student resistance either. The third lustrum in 1941 was celebrated, albeit with a sober tone. Many could not attend on account of the occupation. In spite of this, an excursion was undertaken in 1942: a several-day bike ride through Brabant and Limburg. A year later the UHSK consisted solely of ladies: the gentlemen were put to work or went into hiding. In all likeliness, the fourth lustrum in 1946 was not celebrated. Professor doctor J.J. Janssen, ex-chair, wrote to the UHSK in 2001: “Right after the war the praeses, Joop van der Pot, returned from the camp in a state that made it impossible for him to study. I believe he was in recovery for a year.” The war had affected the UHSK too.

1946-1951: the post-war years

After the war UHSK came back to life. At the end of the ‘40s excursions were undertaken again. The echo of the Second World War still clearly resonated in the readings that were given. The fifties and sixties were a very active period for the UHSK. University life started again and with it life within the Institute of history and the UHSK. Rather soon excursions were hosted again and in the years that followed the first excursion abroad was hosted by the UHSK. In 1947 plans were made and in 1949 UHSK set out to Vlaanderen (Flanders), the ‘cradle of the civil and cultural history of our Dutch Tribe’.

What the UHSK was up to on these excursions is made apparent by songs that were written in that time: ‘Benedictines, Benedictines, with your cider and your beer. If you are not careful you might keep seeing us back here.’ From another song we can tell that the UHSK members also went to the beach: ‘The society once went for a swim, in the Flemish sea. They had to change, but lo, this was not easy. Historians went for a swim, their figures were not ideal, but that was probably due to all that flour and oatmeal.’ However: ‘The sun was much too hot, it did our brittle skins harm. We are from the North, and not the South, where it is warm.’
There were drinks, meals, football matches and swimming. There were, however, also plenty of study-related trips, and there were frequent trips to other student cities. There were also many readings that frequently concerned the second World War or related subjects. In December of 1956, UHSK went big: the British professor Toynbee was invited to speak. Sadly he did not accept. 

1951-1966: Lustrum celebrations and fraternities 

Lustrum celebrations went big in the fifties and sixties. On the fifth lustrum in 1951, professor dr. P.C. Geyl, honorary member professor dr. B.H. Slicher from Bath and the founding members of UHSK were all in attendance, among others. Slicher from Barth made a party speech, there was a meal and then a party with cabaret, singing and dancing. On this evening Han de Zeeuw recited the poem ‘Historicus in Statu nascendi’.
The sixth lustrum in 1956 was not cheap. In turn guests got a speech, an elaborate dinner in restaurant ‘De Schouw’ and an ad infinitum lustrum party. In 1961 the lustrum was a two day party. The thirty-five year anniversary of the UHSK was celebrated with a ‘Joyous entry’ in Dussen castle, a tea dance in courtly manner, a meal at the castle, served by pages and an evening in appropriate fashion, featuring cabaret, and dance. The second day featured a forum, a reception, a dinner and a party that went on until the wee hours of the morning. Of course the board of 1966 had to top this. For the eighth lustrum a committee of recommendation was formed, and sponsors were acquired. The activities included a reading in the Senate hall of the academy building, a car rally with two touring cars, a dinner and a party in castle Duurstede te Wijk, in Duurstede, which went on until three in the morning. The UHSK also had fraternities in the fifties and sixties. Little is known about these. These fraternities bore the names of Albiobola, Panurge and Quint/Ondaatje, among others. A fraternity was chaired by a praeses, who was aided by a mentor. The fraternities were quite autonomous in their relation with UHSK. All first-years could join a fraternity. They would come together and lecture one another on historical subjects. After that they would got to a bar. From the archives it is known that more than half of the members were in a fraternity.

1961: The white papers of Van Dijk

The ‘white papers for the board of U.H.S.K.’ were released in 1961 by Mr. G.B. van Dijk. These papers described the responsibilities of the board, but also detailed the ‘board etiquettes’. This fact could be seen as the ‘corpsation’ of the UHSK in the sixties. The papers also included the manner in which the board was to dress on official occasions, and when the board badges were to be worn. What follows is a quote:

“The protocol within the UHSK is typically to wear a dark (two-piece) suit and a badge. During first meetings only a dark suit is required. With a dark blue suit one is to wear grey socks and a grey tie. It is expected that no pochettes are worn with the badge. During breaks and suspensions the badge is to be taken off and (if staying) to be draped upon the right side of the backrest. The assessor makes sure that in the absence of a member, their badge is draped over the chair. The tail-coat/black two-piece is only to be worn by the board on their own lustrum reception. The L.C. also owns badges. These reside with the ab actiaat.”

The board was expected to request an introductory meeting with the professors, at which the ab actis was to provide flowers for the hostess. In the case of sickness or marriages, flowers and fruit baskets were delivered to the teachers in question. The board badges disappeared when the revolutionary board of 1971-1972 threatened to destroy them. They have since made a return to UHSK. 

1961-1968: committees and trips abroad 

In the year that the Berlin wall was erected, the UHSK went on an excursion to Berlin and in the year of the Prague Spring, the UHSK was in Prague. In the sixties there were a lot of trips abroad, the start of a long tradition within the UHSK. Along with this the first committees were founded, like the audit committee in 1961. In the sixties the UHSK was very traditional and the ambiance was jovial.
In the sixties the first committees came about. In 1961, UHSK had five committees: the lustrum committee, the audit committee, the sports committee, the archive committee and the constitutional committee. For a long time a lot of tasks were still taken on by the board itself. Committees were also founded ad hoc.
The excursions in the sixties took place farther away from home. Under the supervision of prof. Dr. Marietje van Winter, the UHSK travelled to Berlin in 1961. This trip was subsidised. In 1968 UHSK went to Prague and in 1969 to East-Germany. Ms. Van Winter also organised city walks in Utrecht. Finally football matches against other associations were held, that were continued in 1969, ‘despite the shown level of play’. Of great importance for things to come in the UHSK, was the critique of education going on in this period. In the fifties there had already been protests against the short exam time. Ten years later great changes were afoot: the university grew immensely due to the increase in students signing up. Words like ‘democratisation’, ‘participation’ and ‘representation’ were already doing the rounds.

1968-1972: change in character and ‘revolution’

The UHSK was not unmoved by the revolutionary ambitions of the sixties. In the seventies, the revolutionary mindset grew within the association. The UHSK was very left in the student world, which at times caused heated discussions. Democratisation was the focal point, in that context UHSK started to get involved with education and in 1972, the Steering Committee was founded. The traditional association began to change. In 1966 reunion participants, who came to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of UHSK, left the Institute in shock. They were unpleasantly surprised by the changes the association had undergone in the preceding years, like the fraternities, that had almost vanished entirely.
At the start of the seventies, UHSK changed radically. It went from a social club to a Marxistically inclined student union that formed the outer left of the student world. The board was undone, discussion and demonstrations were hosted, and the UHSK participated in national protestactions. The Academy building was occupied, and the chair of the first year trust was a leading Communist party member. The reasons for these changes mostly have to do with zeitgeist. Firstly they have to be set against a background of a broader part of society that came to study, an increase in the scale of the university and a change in the social backgrounds of the students. Everywhere the call for democratisation was rising, reaching its end in the student protests and the revolutionary year 1968.
Within the UHSK the coming together of the ‘student committee’ and the UHSK was of importance. This happened in the year 1968-1969. This brought about great changes for the UHSK board: “Up until now the board was mostly occupied with the promotion of social contacts among the students. An addition has been made: the representation of the students in discussions about study problems.” In the year report 1968-1969 it is stated that the goal of the new board for that year was democratisation.
It is apparent that this was not without discussion: after the General Assembly and the appointing of the new board an angry mob went to a room to form a ‘plan of action’. Within the board there were also tensions: the opinions of different members were so often divided that heated arguments took place frequently.
In the year of 1970-1971, the question was even posed if the UHSK should go on at all. Despite this a new board was installed, which occupied itself mostly with study related matters. This was accompanied by some changes in appearance: the last board had gotten rid of the archaic board badges and replaced them with red ties already. This board took the badges with them at the end of its year, out of fear that they would disappear otherwise. In 1972 a great shift took place: the Steering Committee was founded as a governing body.

1972-1977: UHSK as a union

As everywhere in Dutch society, participation was central, people wanted to think along and participate in decision-making. In this period, the UHSK stood up for the socio-economic position of the student and there were many action plans which also involved education. The ideas were not devoid of Marxist teachings and the atmosphere at the time was

quite revolutionary.

‘The UHSK, according to its name a circle, was to form a real circle once more, consisting of a number of groups who will commit to one or several of the mentioned plans. Once every third week or so, a plenary circle meeting will be held to evaluate and discuss daily business or new developments.’ This all fell under the slogan: ‘become active in your circle!’. 

The minutes of the very first Steering Committee date September 21st 1973. Other, undated minutes star phrases like ‘don’t help with talking but help with deciding!’ and ‘vertical split conservative/progressive’. The 1971 lustrum had a totally different character than that of earlier lustra. Ít was democratically decided beforehand what the lustrum would look like, and participants ‘made’ the lustrum themselves: it was a simulation game, a continuous film presentation, a jam session, theatre improv and a final party with liquid dia. The excursion went to central England, where the remnants of the industrial revolution were admired. 

The discussion about education was dominated by the raising of tuition to 1000 gilders, the education reforms by minister Posthumus and the numerus fixus for the history programme. 1971 saw the founding of the UHSK Aktiecomité 1000 gulden nee’ (Action Committee 1000 gilders no). There were numerous plans for actions: anti-Posthumus-actions, anti budget cuts actions, USF-solidarity actions and educational actions but also ‘aksies ter verbetering van de sosjaal ekonomiese positie van de student’ (actions for the improvement of the socio-economic status of students’. 

Because 1971 saw the signup of one hundred instead of twenty-five first year students, the institute decided that half would need to be rejected. To respond to this, an alternative programme was set up named ‘Binnen is binnen’ (in is in). Through a combination of staff cooperating in their free time, help by elder year students and a reading programme rejected students were still able to get history education. After half a year these students were still admitted to the programme: a huge success.

However, everything was drawn into a Marxist context. For instance the objections to the numerus fixus: ‘Ruud wants to chalk it up to a fight for principles since based on this issue students would be made conscious of the capitalist motives behind the selection and budget cuts. He will make a stencil with which the principal aspects will be explained.’

1972: G.B.J. Hiltermann’s graduation

The UHSK’s increased political engagement is made clear by the protests submitted against G.B.J. Hiltermann’s graduation - at the time a famous journalist. The UHSK politically oriented itself extremely leftist. The UHSK took a clear political point of view. The UHSK’s archives hold numerous communist pamphlets. Some of the titles: ‘solidarity in the fight against the illegalisation and criminalisation of KDP’ and ‘Liga gegen den Imperialismus!’ (League against imperialism), ‘the bourgeoisie can’t forbid class struggle!’ and ‘their struggle, our struggle, international solidarity’. There were also numerous calls to action to participate in manifestations of the CPN (Dutch communist party). 

The war in Vietnam was an important theme. Famous journalist G.B.J. Hiltermann wished to graduate in Utrecht. The UHSK opposed this notion since Hiltermann did not do clear, objective science according to the association. For instance, he would avoid ‘the true causes of the war in Vietnam’: the US wanted to enrich itself and draw resources from the area. Ultimately a ‘playful’ disturbance of the graduation took place. In cooperation with the USF and other associations, people went to the Academiegebouw with pamphlets of the flute playing vagrant Kochius. The disturbance proved to be a success since a week later the UHSK received a letter from Mr. Hiltermann, in which he requested an explanation. This led to, after a lasting correspondence, in a by Mr. Hiltermann sent a business card with a 26-page long treatise in which he explained why the UHSK had misunderstood his view on ‘the affairs of the world’. The annual report of 1972-1973 admitted that this action hadn’t been as successful as had been hoped. 

1977-1979: the end of UHSK as a union

Within the association, there had also been opponents to the radical and action-minded course the UHSK had made during the seventies. This was immediately clear, but as the seventies drew to a close the UHSK grew more and more isolated. The ‘old’ and traditional association of the sixties had disappeared but this also meant the end of UHSK as a union. 

Not everyone had agreed on the course the UHSK had set for itself. This is made apparent by, among other things, minutes from a General Assembly in 1973, during which a discussion took place on whether or not the UHSK should be a more generalised association. ‘Jan: “used to not be political, gezelligheid, study-related issues, internal and external democratisation 1968. Everyone had opportunities. Now the UHSK is turning into ‘new left’, with a Marxist lifestyle.” Ad: “In our field of work leftist politics are best suited to defend interests.” Jan: “UHSK-base is growing slimmer, the good atmosphere is gone.” This discussion led to a motion that proposed to rename the association to Marxistisch Historische Studentenvereniging (Marxist Historic Student association). In May of 1974 a seminar was held about the UHSK, during which several committees, councils and groups were invited. During this, there were also critiques: the group of second years experienced ‘repulsion’ against the UHSK. ‘Repulsion is caused by image, clique, authoritarian, radical.’ The UHSK board replied tenaciously: ‘Well we do need time to convey our (just) vision.’

While 1977 saw a reflection on five years of union and plans for democratic confirmation of the educational programme were in the making, the UHSK slowly drifted into isolation. Ed Jonker noted in an article of the 2001 lustrum almanack that this was probably to be dedicated to a ‘petrified by orthodoxy world of thought’. Many students consciously did not become a member of the UHSK. Maarten Prak describes the group in the same almanack as a ‘dogmatic club of professional activists’. 

In 1979 the entire Institute of History had to move to the Uithof. It is there that the UHSK as a union ultimately died a silent death. The intimate relationship with the USF had given UHSK its radical glow. Whichever of the ideas remained was displayed as: ‘The UHSK is leftist. Why are we leftist? Because we look leftist.’ Looking at member count and organisation, there wasn’t much left of the association.

1998-2001: the UHSK defines itself

In the late 1990s, there was a lot of criticism that suggested that the UHSK was too inward-looking. The new motto was: “renew, expand and professionalise quickly”. The UHSK as we know it today began to take shape. 

In the years that followed, the UHSK’s course was clearly and definitively changed. In the members' magazine, which has since changed from 'Route 66' to 'Agora', a critical piece appeared, accusing the UHSK of being too inward-looking. This criticism rubbed a number of people the wrong way, but the writer was not alone. It turned out that there were more people who supported a process of renewal, expansion and professionalisation. As a result, the board of 1998-1999 appeared. This board has gone down in history as the board that started the professionalisation of the UHSK. Very carefully, a start was made regarding board clothing: they bought board zip-off trousers. However, during a fierce Switch-GA, words like 'uniformization' and 'dictatorship' were still mentioned. 

The UHSK now presented itself more as the association for all history students. The association started to define itself more, a start was made to recruit sponsors, and grants were applied for. Contact with other associations led to the Pan Historical Network and the Full House Party. Also, things like inaugural drinks, policy plans, annual reports and financial statements were initiated during this year. Membership grew, not in the least thanks to the close cooperation with the Introduction Committee of the study. It seemed that the UHSK was undergoing a major metamorphosis.

The 1999-2000 board managed to continue the changes that had been made, first with the purchase of board shirts. During this year, the UHSK also took over the historical magazine ‘Aanzet’. Due to the merger with the foundation that published ‘Aanzet’, the UHSK gained two important tasks: publishing ‘Aanzet’, and organising study book sales for members. To date, this is one of the most important activities of the association. In addition, the Education Committee was set up. In addition to organising the lustrum, the Lustrum board of 2000-2001 also had the introduction of the BaMa system and gaining closer contacts with lecturers and alumni included in its policy plan. An almanack appeared again, and the lustrum trip took place in Tunisia.

2001-now: the UHSK as an adult association

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, the UHSK has developed into a mature association. With about 1400 members, the UHSK in 2019 is one of the larger associations in Utrecht, and the largest association within the Faculty of Humanities. The years after 2001 saw a further continuation of the policy of professionalisation and structuring. For example, the committees have been structured, new statutes have been adopted and a Committee of Recommendation has been established. The symposium, which already attracted many renowned speakers, is now an annual affair, as well as the gala that started in 2001. The play was introduced in 1997 and the Political Café in 2002. In addition, there are excursions, weekends, parents' days, parties, drinks and, for several years now, the Von der Dunk lecture in the ‘Academy Building’. The UHSK, in collaboration with Letteren Werken!, also organises a career day for its members, and there are the Education Committee and the Evaluation Day. The UHSK tie, mug, pillowcase, towel and waiter's knife were introduced. Unfortunately, the UHSK condom has not yet made it to production.

This range of activities and such a membership base is unique in the history of this association. All of this would probably not have been possible without the policy of renewal and professionalisation that was launched in the late 1990s. The UHSK largely owes its diligence to this development. Essentially, the whole process of 1985-2005 can be seen as a slow process of 'normalisation'. The changes introduced at various points, often to the dismay of the old guard, have resulted in the UHSK becoming a mature study association. At the beginning of the 21st century, the number of committee shirts worn by committee members is increasing, and the board wears a suit to formal events. The UHSK also became a politically independent study association: for all history students, left or right.