Dr Floris Verhaart
School of History
After studying classics and Slavic languages at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands (graduated 2011), I completed a DPhil in history at the University of Oxford with a thesis on classical scholarship, which was subsequently published by Oxford University Press in 2020 (). From 2016 until 2020, I was affiliated with Queen’s University Belfast within the context of War and the Supernatural, an ERC-funded project led by Dr Ian Campbell. I then joined the School of History at UCC in October 2020 after winning a Government of Ireland postdoctoral fellowship.
My main research interests are Neo-Latin studies and the religious and cultural history of early modern Europe. All of these interests come together in my current research project, entitled Enemies of the Text: Jean Hardouin and the Modernisation of the Humanities. An eminent numismatist and philologist, Hardouin (1646-1729) discovered what he saw as discrepancies between the classics of ancient Greece and Rome and the information he could gather from coins and other material remains from antiquity. His rather dramatic conclusion was that virtually all of classical literature had been forged in the thirteenth century by Benedictine monks who were part of an atheistic conspiracy. Although Hardouin’s claims sound extreme – and are patently untrue – his theory intrigued eighteenth-century readers and thus forced contemporary scholars to find ways of refuting him. The situation was similar to the occasional outbursts nowadays of suspicion about the ‘true author' of Shakespeare’s plays. ke their modern-day counterparts, scholars in Hardouin’s time faced a fundamental problem: What do you do when someone simply refuses to believe a historical document or text is genuine?
In response to Hardouin’s writings, scholars looked for new ways to demonstrate that textual evidence was reliable and that documents from the past were genuine. This is the context in which, for example, palaeography – the study of handwriting in manuscripts as means of dating a document – became a serious field of research. Scholars also realised they had to reach out to non-specialist readers in order to better explain their work and methodology and warn of the dangers of extreme scepticism. My project is therefore a case study of conspiracy theories, the relationship between experts and the general public, as well as debates on the reliability of information against the background of the eighteenth-century public sphere.