Legitimacy Research in Progress III: Anne Heyer

Anne Heyer is a PhD candidate affiliated with the Profile Area Political Legitimacy. At the Leiden Insitute for History, she works on her thesis with the (provisional) title "Birth of Political Mass Parties", in which she compares the first political parties in the United Kingdom (NLF), Germany (SDAP) and The Netherlands (ARP). We are proud to publish an update of her research.

Research update by Anne Heyer

The history of political mass parties has been studied from many different perspectives in historical as well as political science research. Yet, we know very little about the phenomenon of early party formation in the second half of the 19th century. The majority of studies either focused solely on individual parties without providing general conclusions or, following a more systematic approach, left original archival sources out. In order to study early party formation, my PhD project analyses three ideologically different parties in three different nation states: the German Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP), the British National Liberal Federation (NLF) and the Dutch Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP). With these three case studies, the PhD dissertation focuses on ideas and practices that shaped the organization of early political parties.


In search for an organizational model that would combine participatory promises with efficient decision making, party activists regularly referred to traditional ideas of organization, spontaneously responded to external circumstances and often simply tried to solve organizational trouble on the spot. Without being able to foresee the future outline and its success, insiders and outsiders of the organizations fiercely discussed the new parties. Especially the combination of mass organization and parliamentary politics caused administrative problems and ideological discussions; and also raised the critical attention of many contemporaries. Through the analysis of three different case studies the dissertation pays tribute to the distinct features of national party histories. The project, however, also aims at providing insights into common organizational processes to draw a more general conclusion on the phenomenon of early party formation.

Dissertation title (provisional): "Birth of Political Mass Parties"
PhD candidate:
Anne Heyer
Research project: The Promise of Organization (funded by NWO)
Institute: Institute for History, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University
Supervisors: prof. dr. H. te Velde & dr. M.J. Janse


Last Modified: 02-03-2016