Curriculum

The full Bachelor's programme takes three years. Each year comprises four 10-week periods. Each period concludes with a week of examinations. In your first year, you will have an average of 12 contact hours per week.

Below the course overview, you will find an explanation of the study programme. 

Year 1
Study period 1
Modern History (1789-1914)
An introduction to nineteenth-century European history. You will be offered an overview, from the history of the French Revolution to the First World War.
Introduction to the Study of History
What does historical study entail? This course introduces the student to different approaches within the discipline.
Study period 2
Contemporary History
An overview of history from 1914 onwards. You study the politics and changing power relations in the West and the rest of the world, from different perspectives.
World History
This course de-centres a traditional European view on History. It focuses on non-Western cultures and networks and their relationships with the Western world using a longer-term perspective.
Study period 3
Ancient History
Everything about the history of the Ancient Near East and Greek-Roman Antiquity. You will be reading ancient sources, but also modern texts, and in doing so will acquire an overview of the most important developments.
Medieval History
An overview of history from late Antiquity until the fifteenth century. You learn about the Franks, the advent of Christianity and the urbanisation of sections of Europe.
Study period 4
Big Questions, Big Data
In this course you will work with (large) historical data sets and become familiar with quantitative research. With fellow students you analyze a specific historical, economic or social development in a region of your choice.
Early Modern History
About the developments in the late fifteenth century up until the late eighteenth century, which would influence Europe in the long term. Such as state formation, the Reformation and the Enlightenment.
Year 2
Compulsory
Study period 1: Writing Skills for Historians
Sharing knowledge of history and historical research with colleagues and society: how does that work?
Study period 2: Research Skills for Historians
Learning to research primary sources: from archival records to digital databases. For Dutch students, we offer an Honours Programme. These honours students take the course “Goed in Geesteswetenschappen” instead of this course.
Specialisations The Foundations of Europe: Power, Religion and Cultural Identity
Study period 1: Power, Religion and Identity
What is the influence of ancient and medieval ideas on contemporary Europe? In this course you will gain insight into modern views on antiquity and the Middle Ages and their significance for national and cultural identities in Europe.
Study period 2: Christians, Jews and Muslims
What did Jews, Christians and Muslims think of each other and how did they interact? In this course you investigate the processes of inclusion and exclusion that people used to shape their own identity.
Study period 3: Cities and Citizens
Citizenship is a central element in political ideas and social structures of ancient and medieval societies. In this course, you get to know many types of sources and researchmethods.
Study period 4: World Rulers
An introduction to prominent rulers of the ancient and medieval past and their depiction of power. You learn to use primary sources, such as biographies, historiography, inscriptions, coins and archaeological objects.
Specialization Political Conflict in Modern Europe
Study period 1: Cities, States, Empires
This course investigates the rise of the modern state by looking at the interaction between nationalism and state-formation. It studies various forms of states, such as the absolutist state, the totalitarian state and the welfare state.
Study period 2: The Great Dictators
This course offers a comparative investigation of the character of twentieth-century dictatorships, by looking at fascist Italy, Nazi-Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. We pay attention to repression and persecution, but also to ideology, propaganda and the dictators themselves.
Study period 3: Revolutions
This course compares revolutions from the Glorious Revolution to the Arab Spring. By looking at regime change, revolutions and coups in various countries and times, we explain how scholars have understood the causes for political change in socioeconomic, political and intellectual terms and shed a light on various aspects of the strife for political power.
Study period 4: Democracy under Attack
In this course, students research the interaction between parliamentary democracy and the various forms of protests and resistance against it, ranging from fascist movements, student protests and contemporary populism. Students complete the course with an independent research based on primary sources to a historical or current democratic development.
Specialization The Power of Culture
Study period 1: Civilization, Culture, and Society
A showcase of notable approaches to cultural history. You will learn how culture is defined and studied in past and present.
Study period 2: Public History and Cultural Heritage
How do heritage institutions keep the past relevant and how can you share cultural history with a broad public?
Study period 3: Media and the Modern World
Learn how mass communication media – from newspapers to the internet – have influenced and shaped culture and society throughout modern history.
Study period 4: Visions of Empire
Everything about the global circulation of knowledge and ideas, the clash of cultures, and the cultural repercussions of colonialism and empire.
Specialisation The Great Challenges. Crises, Inequality and Sustainability
Study period 1: The Great Divergence
We analyse why some countries have developed high living standards, accessible educational systems, and healthy environments, and others have not. Various explanations for this Great Divergence are discussed. The way in which societies are organised appears to be crucial for their success or failure.
Study period 2: Made in Holland
Crises, Inequality and Sustainability. In this course we will explore the history of Dutch multinationals from 1600-2000. On the one hand we will analyse the economic contribution of these big corporations and on the other hand we will look for the damage the multinational corporations may have done to the world.
Study period 3: Thinking about Capitalism
Capitalism, although not without problems like instability and inequality, is the most successful economic system in history. In this course the views of a number of classic thinkers on capitalism will be discussed. Some defended capitalism, others tried to impose some moral order on it or wanted to abolish the system.
Study period 4: Collapse or survival
This course focuses on the vulnerability of societies to shocks and hazards, like natural disasters, epidemics and wars. You carry out your own research project, using primary and secondary sources, in order to analyse a historical shock or hazard and the way a society coped with it.
Specialisation Europe in the world
Study period 1: What is Europe?
This course offers an overview of the conceptual history of Europe. It shows that our thinking about Europe – what it is, whom it in- and excludes, how its borders should be defined and whether such a thing as a European identity exists – has evolved over time and has always given rise to fierce debates.
Study period 2: Battlefield Europe
In this research seminar students will analyse, compare and contrast World War I and II from both a Western and Eastern European perspective within the wider historical context of Europe and European violence in the first half of the twentieth century.
Study period 3: History of European Unification
This course offers an overview of the history of European integration and its main institutions. You will analyse important strategic dilemmas in this process, such as enlargement versus deepening, Europeanization versus globalisation, and a Europe of citizens versus a Europe of states.
Study period 4: Europe and the Cold War
In this course the students will analyse the history of multilateral institutions during the Cold War as well as their impact on the ensuing period. Using primary sources, institutions such as NATO, the Warsaw Pact and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe will be examined in depth.
Specialisation Globalisation and world order
Study period 1: Globalisation from 1500 - present
Introduction into the issue of globalisation and global relations during the last five centurie: what is globalisation? How did imperialism affect globalisation? Does globalisation follow a linear path? And: is it good or bad?
Study period 2: Human Rights and Development
Since the late nineteenth century Western conceptions of human rights and development have influenced global relations. Students examine the contexts of humanitarian thinking and action, and will do research into a specific case.
Study period 3: Institutions of Global Governance
In this course students learn to analyse the aims and workings of institutions of global governance such as the League of Nationas, United Nations, and other cultural and economic organisations, and acquire a good knowledge about recent developments in an increasingly polycentric world.
Study period 4: The postcolonial World Order
This research seminar centres around the impact of imperialism and decolonisation on global relations, and views the postcolonial world order from the perspective of the non-Western world. Students will do archival research into a specific topic from the ‘Global South’.
Specialisation Conflict, violence, and security
Study period 1: The Politics of Violence
An introduction into the history of political violence. In this course you will learn what political violence is, how the state is involved and how political violence effects society.
Study period 2: Soldiers, Guerillas, Terrorists
This course offers a wide spectre of battlefields and foci of violent conflict and will make you think about the question whether there is a fundamental distinction between regular warfare and irregular modes of combat, such as guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
Study period 3: Genocide in Comparative Perspective
Everything you want to know about the origins and development of ethnic violence and genocide. This course introduces you to the rich literature about the topic and teaches you to compare different episodes of genocide.
Study period 4: Historicizing Security
This course focuses on current national and international security issues. Based on extensive reading of literature and research into primary sources you will grasp a better understanding of the development of securitisation and modern security policy.
Year 3
Study period 1 or 3
Theory of History
Thinking about history: is it really possible to know the past? And how can we find out if it is?
Study period 2 or 4
Bachelor's thesis
You will complete the Bachelor’s programme by writing a thesis about a topic of your choice.
Study period 1-4
Elective / Internship / Study abroad
In your third year, you can take elective course, do an internship, or study abroad for a semester.

Coherence

If you study History at Utrecht, you study subjects in coherence. This ensures a sound structure. The courses within the specialisations you will take with the same group of students, so you will get to know each other well.

More in-depth

From the second year onwards, you will study History in greater depth. You can choose a History track or an International Relations in Historical Perspective track. You can choose from various specialisations within the tracks. Each specialisation comprises four subjects. You will find which topics are featured in each specialisation in the profile descriptions for the second year.
 

Specialisations within the History track:

 

  1. The foundations of Europe: power, religion and cultural identity
     
  2. Political Conflict in Modern Europe
    In this specialisation we study, among other things, revolutions, Hitler’s and Stalin’s totalitarian regimes, and the historical roots of contemporary populism from an international comparative perspective from the eighteenth century until the present. In this way, you gain in-depth knowledge of the political history of modern Europe, and insight in the most pressing political issues of our times.
     
  3. The Power of Culture
    Culture keeps our society together and determines our world view, but has also been a source of conflict. This specialisation studies cultural history from the Renaissance to the digital age of mass media and Facebook, from the civilised elites to the global mass culture of Hollywood and Disney.
     
  4. The Great Challenges. Crises, Inequality and Sustainability
    In this specialisation you will analyse why some present-day societies have achieved high living standards, accessible educational systems, and healthy environments, while others have failed to do so. You will discover that at the root of long-term developments usually lie choices and decisions made by ordinary men and women trying to create a better future for themselves and their local communities, whilst dealing with adversity and crisis.

Specialisations within the International Relations track:

  1. Europe in the world
    The European Union and its history from the early 20th Century take central stage: the historical tension between the pursuit of order and cooperation and the forces of disorder and disunity on the ‘old continent’.
     
  2. Globalisation and World Order
    The focus here is on causes and consequences of growing interdependency in the world: the moral conceptions and the institutions that create world order, the forces that have determined the relations between rich and poor, North and South.
     
  3. Conflict, Violence, and Security
    Students research the relations between violence and security in international politics: the historical and societal backgrounds of warfare and terrorism, the conception and creation of institutions to safeguard the security of states and citizens.

Electives

One third of the programme is filled with optional courses that may interest you. For example, you can choose to do a selection of courses from a different programme. Another option is to study abroad for a while. As a result, you can shape your own study path within the curriculum.

Internship

An internship allows to you gain practical experience during your studies: you get a taste of how you can apply the knowledge and skills you developed during your studies, in practice. An internship is also a great opportunity to see what kind of work you like and what type of organisations suit you. On top of that, it is a great way to start your professional network. The internship coordinator of the History programme can help you to find an interesting internship.

Teaching methods

In the first year of your History Bachelor's programme, teaching will be in the form of lectures and tutorials:

  • Lectures are a way of getting an overview of a large amount of information in a short of amount of time; you and your fellow students will be listening to an expert in the field.
  • Tutorials give you the opportunity to actively engage with historical issues yourself. You may have to give a presentation or discuss a topic with fellow students or work on an assignment. There are plenty of opportunities for interaction and for asking questions.

You will have an average of 12 to 18 contact hours per week. In addition to lectures, you will work independently (so without supervision), in groups, or on your own. The ratio between the forms of teaching formats in the first year is:

Lectures 10%
Tutorials 20%
Excursions 10%
Independent study 60%

Group size

In 2019, 78 students started the History Bachelor's programme, of which 33 are international students. Seminar groups consist of approximately 20–25 students. 

Academic Year Calendar

Check out the Academic Year Calendar (PDF) here for the start and end dates of the terms and non-teaching weeks.

Binding Study Advice

Similar to other Dutch universities, Utrecht University has a Binding Study Advice (BSA). This means that each student must attain a minimum number of credits to be allowed to continue the programme. For History, this minimum is 45 credits (of the total of 60 credits that can be obtained). If a student fails to achieve this, participation in the study programme will be terminated. The Study Advisor or tutor will help students to find a programme that is more suitable for them.

Grading system

The grading system in the Netherlands might differ significantly from the grading system you are used to. See here for more information.

Tutor

From the start of the study programme, each student has an individual tutor. The tutor is an academic staff member, who helps you with questions regarding the study programme and advises you on the various options within the course. The tutor also advises students on how to make the most of their studies.