Biography in headlines

Cor Hermans standingI was born 1953 in Horst, in the south of the Netherlands, and grew up in nearby Sevenum. At present I live in a Rotterdam suburb. I studied history at Amsterdam’s Free University, and took my PhD in 2003 at the University of Amsterdam. I have spent my working life in The Hague, working for the city and, next, for the government. Social security, the labour market, justice and public security are the domains I have been working in, as a policy and strategy advisor.

I have never been able to restrict my efforts to ‘one trade’. It is a great joy to combine my job as a strategist with writing history. It all began when, at sixteen, I decided to write a paper on Nietzsche, to please my history teacher and to satisfy my own, somewhat curious, ambition to come close to a deep and dark thinker of Nietzsche’s magnitude. Two years later I produced an extended and revised version of the same paper, for another term, and again it worked: my teachers almost summoned me to take up a study at university. For several weeks I was in doubt: should I choose history or philosophy? After someone convinced me that a proper philosopher should be quite familiar with the exact sciences, my deep fear of mathematics made me choose history. I have never regretted my choice. However, I had to set aside my original plan to become a painter and an illustrator.

Once having taken my first steps by trying to reach up to Nietzsche, I have for a long time remained faithful to the second half of the nineteenth century. The mental storm of those decades, caused by the convergent innovations in natural science, philosophy, literature and psychology, will never stop to fascinate. I wrote my first book on Darwin and social Darwinism (2003, my thesis) and my second on John Stuart Mill (2008), focussing on his often neglected fondness of French social and political thought. In politically instable France Mill found the fertile and dangerous ideas he missed so much in commercial and conservative Britain.
In 2015 I hope to complete my analysis of the Interbellum literature. The twentieth century has, for some mysterious reason, produced an extraordinary number of most excellent writers. In my new book I will be looking for the founding ideas in the novels, plays and stories of Proust and Joyce, Musil and Broch, Céline and Jünger, Woolf and Sartre, Orwell and Zweig, Gide and Camus, Kafka and Beckett, Miller and O’Neill.

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