Dr I. van Renswoude (46) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands in The Hague. She received the Heineken Young Scientists Award for History 2014 for her study of the classical tradition of free speech and the processes of transformation by which it was transmitted to the Middle Ages.
Irene van Renswoude studied free speech in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages at the Research Institute for History and Culture at Utrecht University. Her 2011 thesis dispelled theories that such ideals as rhetoric, honesty and criticism of the ruling class had disappeared at the end of Roman civilisation. She showed that the Middle Ages had dissidents as well. They were not philosophers, as in the latter days of Rome, but rather religious luminaries who cared just as little for wealth and power.
Today, Van Renswoude studies public debate in the Middle Ages at the Huygens ING Institute. In 2012, she won a prize from the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation.
‘It’s very important to venture outside the boundaries of your own discipline. We can learn a lot by opening ourselves up to ideas in other disciplines. There’s nothing as enriching as dialogue.’