Universiteit Leiden

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Subject guide

Sources of Leiden University’s History

The archives created by Leiden University and the private archives of Leiden professors are an invaluable source for the history of the university and its functioning. The main sources have been edited (nearly always in Dutch). In addition, several studies have been published, describing the development of the university over the course of four centuries. Below, some of the most important sources, studies and access points are mentioned, for research into Leiden University and the University Library, Leiden students and doctoral candidates, and Leiden professors.

The resolutions of the Governors (in Dutch) and those of the Senate (in Latin) are of great importance for the study of the history of Leiden University. Resolutions during the period 1575-1815 were edited by P.C. Molhuysen in his seven-volume Bronnen tot de geschiedenis der Leidsche universiteit (’s-Gravenhage 1913-1924). [Online resource Huygens ING ]

At this moment the history of Leiden University is being written by Willem Otterspeer in his Groepsportret met dame, of which three volumes (Amsterdam 2000-2005) have been published so far, covering the years 1575-1672, 1673-1775 and 1776-1876. Anticipating the fourth volume, Otterspeer's Het bolwerk van de vrijheid. De Leidse universiteit in heden en verleden (Amsterdam 2008) appeared, an abstract which also includes the twentieth century. The more recent history of Leiden University (1975-2000) is dealt with in H.J. de Jonge & W. Otterspeer (eds.), Altijd een vonk of twee (Leiden 2000), the history of the University buildings in N. Blok e.a. (eds.), Vier eeuwen geschiedenis in steen (Leiden 2005). In 2015, Otterspeer published Edele wijze lieve bijzondere. Een bondige geschiedenis van de Leidse universiteit.

The history of Leiden University Library is described by C. Berkvens Stevelinck, Magna Commoditas. Geschiedenis van de Leidse universiteitsbibliotheek 1575-2000 (Leiden 2001). An English translation and revised edition was published in 2012: Magna commoditas. Leiden University’s great asset. Somewhat older and only covering one century of the university's history but still important (and in English) is: Th.H. Lunsingh Scheurleer & G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes (eds.), Leiden University in the Seventeenth Century. An Exchange of Learning (Leiden 1975).

Matriculation and recension — Traditionally, new students were obliged to be matriculated within eight days after their arrival in Leiden. This was done in the volumina inscriptionum, kept in the Archives of the Senate  (ASF 7-19). Notes were made of the date of registration, the name of the student, country and place of origin, age and the chosen Faculty. These data have been published for the years 1575-1925 (links to the online catalogue):

Furthermore, all students were obliged to have their names reviewed every year after the inauguration of the new rector on the 8th of February, the so called ‘recensie’. The lists of these ‘recensies’ are present in the Archives of the Senate and the Faculties (ASF 22-252). For the years after 1925 the entries can be found in the matriculation registers of the students, 1877-1977 (1987). In 2011 Martine Zoeteman’s dissertation De studentenpopulatie van de Leidse universiteit, 1575-1812 was published, in which she analyses the more than 60,000 matriculations in the Leiden Album studiosorum between 1575 and 1812.

Examinations and promotions — The data about examinations and promotions of students can for the most part be found in the archives of the faculties, especially in the so-called Acta Facultatis. Furthermore most of the following annuals and student almanacs (in Latin and Dutch) contain lists of promotions (links to the Catalogue):

The online catalogue contains several thousand dissertations that have been defended at Leiden University over the past four centuries. Since a few years it is stated in the PhD Regulations, that every  PhD candidate needs to submit a digital version of his or her dissertation at the University Library. There also printed catalogues for Leiden dissertations (for the periods 1581-1655 en 1750-1850), and also an exhibition catalogue Hora est! For these publications, view the collection guide: Collection Catalogues of the Holdings of Leiden University Libraries, under the following codes: A 10.47. — E 13. — E 18. — J 98.

Data about the Leiden professors can be found in the Archives of the Governors. For a first orientation see the Album Scholasticum Academiae Lugduno Batavae, of which up to now the following volumes have been published: Vol. 1. MDLXXV-MCMXL (Leiden 1941); Vol. 2. MCMXL-MCMLXXIV (Leiden 1976); Vol. 3. MXMLXXV-MCMLXXXIX (Leiden 1991).

Both western and oriental manuscript collections contain scholarly papers and correspondence of many Leiden professors, and also lecture notes made by their students. Finally, documents on professors may also be found in the Academisch Historisch Museum (Academic Historical Museum) of Leiden University.

An overview of Leiden professors is availaible on the website Leidse hoogleraren vanaf 1575 (Dutch).