History teacher Celia Goedde was one of 16 teachers chosen out of more than 100 applicants from the United States to study “The Dutch Republic and Britain: The Making of Modern Society and a European World Economy,” a course sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities in England and the Netherlands.
Goedde grew interested in the course because it presented a topic she did not know much about: economic history. An important strategy of the class was relating economic change with contemporary political and cultural developments, she said.
“I love political and cultural history, so I knew this would be a great way to gain a deep understanding of economic transformation and the roots of the Industrial Revolution,” Goedde said.
Goedde attended a NEH seminar in 2003 to study Mozart’s German operas in Vienna. This experience enthused Goedde to apply for other NEH courses.
The NEH sponsors seminars every summer for teachers to extend their knowledge of the various humanities and obtain new methods of teaching through informal interfacing between participants.
“When you have a group of teachers get together, there are a lot of discussions about how different schools and different teachers try to inspire a love of learning in their students,” Goedde said.
This exchange was made possible by the interactive style of the seminars. Participating teachers ran discussions and arranged formal debates.
The teachers read 150-250 pages each day to prepare for class discussions, supplemented by dynamic activities such as curating paintings from the time period of focus. Participants were also responsible for completing essays on seminar topics. Goedde decided to write about the art market during the Dutch Golden Age, examining Dutch painters’ attitudes towards economic change.
Though they spent most of their time in London, England, and Leiden, Netherlands, the teachers visited Amsterdam, the Hague, Antwerp, Haarlem and other cities.
“One morning you are in class discussing how big of a role colonies played in building up these economies, and then in the afternoon you take a walking tour and get to see the docks and warehouses used in the 17th and 18th centuries,” Goedde said. “Visiting the actual sites is so meaningful because it gives you an immediate and concrete understanding of how much time and money were invested into these businesses.”