Courses

Below you find the course descriptions of History of Politics and Society. The programme consists of compulsory courses, electives, an internship and a Master's thesis. Read more about the curriculum.

Please note: electives B and C are only offered in Dutch. 

Compulsory

Cities, States, and Citizenship (compulsory)

Institutions shape human lives and human history. Without rules and organizations, societies disintegrate and the results are usually terrifying (think of Iraq or Syria today). One type of institutions that is seen as crucial for the well-being of societies, is civic organisations, with citizenship sitting in the middle. Citizenship has a long history in Europe, where it originated in cities and then shifted to the level of the state after the French Revolution (citoyen). Other civilisations did not use the concept, but did have similar citizenship ‘practices’. This course investigates this very long-term history, focusing on a series of episodes in the institutional history of citizenship and civil society, starting with Europe’s late medieval cities.

Students are allowed to take their exams in Dutch or English. Please discuss your preference with your teacher at the beginning of the course.

Please note Only students from the MA History of Politics and Society and the MA Geschiedenis: educatie en communicatie are allowed to register for this course. All other students have to contact the programme coordinator.

Toolbox for Comparative Historical Research (compulsory)

This course trains students to develop relevant and precise research questions and to choose and apply relevant methods and techniques for addressing these questions. The course builds on the general foundation laid in the BA programme: existing research skills are honed and deepened. Besides the development of a research question firmly embedded in the academic debate and a systematic operationalisation of that question, the course mainly focuses on the acquisition of skills in comparative and long-term historical research. Students are familiarized with the methods for this type of research, learn to apply these methods and also learn to critically reflect on their limitations. This is done through two assignments in which insights from the methodological literature are applied to concrete examples of historical research on various political and societal issues.

Please note Only students from the MA History of Politics and Society and the MA Geschiedenis: educatie en communicatie are allowed to register for this course. All other students have to contact the programme coordinator.

Challenges of the Welfare State (compulsory)

The welfare state is perhaps the greatest achievement of the industrialized world. By providing a series of welfare schemes, governments have seriously reduced a host of risks that used to make the lives of all but the wealthiest classes miserable. In this course, students will learn about the various shapes of the welfare state in a range of industrialized European countries. The purpose of this exercise in comparative history is, however, not only to learn more about the history of the welfare state, but also to prepare for a career in one of its institutions, or some other public institution. Students will familiarize themselves with policies, and policy-making instruments, and be asked to write two policy documents for such institutions.

Career orientation:
This course explicitly prepares students for their professional careers by teaching them skills in the writing of policy documents. The course moreover prepares them for their internship (or skills lab) in the second semester since they are expected to write a project plan and a quality improvement plan

Please note Only students from the MA History of Politics and Society and the MA Geschiedenis: educatie en communicatie are allowed to register for this course. All other students have to contact the programme coordinator.

Themes in the History of Politics and Society (compulsory)

In this course, students will develop their own research design. To this purpose, students are assigned to one of a series of small groups that each cover a specific theme in the history of politics and society. Within that theme, students choose the topic of their thesis, which should include a comparative historical analysis or long-term analysis. On the basis of a thorough study of secondary literature on the theme and on their own topic within it, students will formulate feasible research questions. They will identify relevant methods, cases and sources, as well as techniques to analyze these sources, and develop a realistic time schedule for their research. In doing so, they will use the skills acquired during the course ‘Toolbox for Comparative Historical Research’.

Entrance requirements: To participate in this course you need to have completed GKMV17015 Ges-Toolbox.

Career orientation
Students will develop practical skills to do historical research on political and societal issues in a long-term and comparative perspective.

Electives

Elective A: Growth and Inequality, 1000-2000

This course presents an overview of the global processes which have occurred over the past millennium culminating in the distribution of unequal economic prosperity found today. Already before 1800 several predominantly rural regions transitioned into highly urbanized societies where benevolent politics, market institutions, and new technologies facilitated economic growth and development. The course sketches these developments, and links them to the genesis of the Industrial Revolution, while highlighting different measures of growth and inequality. The second part of the course focuses on the diffusion of modern economic growth and institutional constellations to other parts of the world. The main aim of this course is to analyze this long-term process of economic and institutional change by distinguishing multiple theoretical perspectives on its ultimate and proximate causes, as well as the vast global inequalities that came with it.

Please note Only students from the MA History of Politics and Society are allowed to register for this course. All other students have to contact the programme coordinator.

Keuzecursus B: Omgaan met voedselcrises

De kwetsbaarheid van samenlevingen voor crises van allerlei aard (van natuurramp tot financiële ineenstorting) staat momenteel volop in de belangstelling. Waarom lukt het sommige samenlevingen om problemen op te vangen en snel te herstellen, terwijl elders een vergelijkbare situatie leidt tot een neerwaartse spiraal? Het antwoord ligt voor een belangrijk deel in de wijze waarop de samenleving is ingericht.

In deze cursus wordt de aandacht gericht op een specifiek type crises: voedselcrises. Er komen verschillende theorieën en modellen aan de orde die gebruikt worden om de kwetsbaarheid van samenlevingen voor dergelijke crises te analyseren. Aan de hand daarvan bestuderen we diverse voedselcrises, vooral in de 19e en 20e eeuw, maar soms ook eerder, in Europa en daarbuiten. Dat gebeurt vanuit een vergelijkend perspectief, waarbij zowel gebieden als perioden met elkaar vergeleken worden. Gekeken wordt naar de inrichting en het functioneren van de markt, maar ook naar de rol van niet-commerciële instituties: de overheid, hulporganisaties, informele lokale netwerken en familierelaties. Welke factoren maakten dat samenlevingen in staat waren om te voorkomen dat voedseltekorten uitgroeiden tot dramatische hongersnoden? De lijn wordt doorgetrokken naar het heden: welke lessen zijn hieruit te leren voor de wijze waarop we heden ten dage omgaan met voedselcrises, en met crises in het algemeen?

Let op: alleen studenten van de MA Geschiedenis van Politiek en Maatschappij mogen zich inschrijven voor deze cursus. Andere studenten moeten voor toestemming contact opnemen met de programmacoördinator.

Elective C: Ges-Democratie en Democratisering

De staat van de democratie bevindt zich in een paradoxale situatie. Enerzijds lijkt er sinds 1989 geen alternatief als regeringsvorm meer over en claimen politieke regimes over de hele wereld democratisch te zijn. Anderzijds lijkt de democratie, met name in Europa, zich in een diepe crisis te bevinden waarin het vertrouwen van burgers in vertegenwoordigende instituties snel afneemt. Kortom: het vertrouwen in de democratie is groot, maar partijen, parlementen en politici worden gewantrouwd. Deze cursus geeft een overzicht van de historische ontwikkeling van democratie en theorieën van democratisering en draagt zo bij aan een beter begrip van de huidige democratische crisis.

In deze cursus richten we ons op twee aspecten van dit debat over de staat en kenmerken van de democratie: de intellectuele wortels van ons modern democratiebegrip vanuit het perspectief van de politieke ideeëngeschiedenis; en theorieën over democratie en democratisering vanuit het perspectief van de politieke wetenschappen.

Op deze manier traceren we de conceptuele ontwikkeling van democratie over een lange termijn; analyseren we de belangrijkste politieke instituties van democratie in het heden; en vergelijken we verschillende wetenschappelijke verklaringen voor democratisering. We doen dit steeds vanuit een internationaal vergelijkend perspectief en waarbij we voortdurend het verband opzoeken tussen geschiedenis en actuele ontwikkelingen zoals de diplomademocratie; referenda en directe democratie; de opkomst van het populisme; en recente democratiseringsgolven binnen en buiten Europa.

Let op: alleen studenten van de MA Geschiedenis van Politiek en Maatschappij mogen zich inschrijven voor deze cursus. Andere studenten moeten voor toestemming contact opnemen met de programmacoördinator.

Elective D: The Politics of History

This course is designed for students to understand the importance and usage of history and memory in politics at local, national and international levels. Students will see more clearly how the past has been used to legitimise political action and has motivated political action. Actors in the politics of history comprise diverse institutions including states, regions, and cities as well as civil society organisations such as social movements. Politicians often form alliances with historians as based on political ideologies. Literature from memory studies and nationalism studies shall be applied to historical case studies as well as contemporary politics. We will discuss a broad range of themes such as Holocaust memory in German and international politics since 1945, the politics of official apologies by postcolonial governments, memory activism in cities today, the importance of historical cultures in the organisation of social movements and political parties, and (de)constructions of cultural heritage for political purposes.

Students will acquire a critical awareness of the use of history for political purposes. This will help them to prepare for employment with government or semi-government organizations, in communications or in the media.

The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by the International Office and the Programme coordinator. Acceptance is not self-evident.

Practical components and research project

Internship History of Politics and Society

During their internship students carry out an independent assignment on an academic level related to one of the core themes of the MA-programme. The internship should result in a concrete product that can be assessed, like a research report, evaluation report or policy advice (50% of the final grade). In addition students write an internship report in which they describe their activities during the internship and reflect on the degree to which their learning goals have been achieved (50%).

Career orientation:
The internship explicitly means to give students the opportunity to gain practical experience and get acquainted with the labour market.

Before starting your internship you need to have completed the following courses:
GKMV17013 Ges-Cities, States and Citizenship
GKMV17014 Ges-Challenges of the Welfare State

History of Politics and Society Lab

Students work in small groups. Each group selects, in consultation with the supervisor, a current-day theme related to one of the core themes of the MA-programme. Students gather information on this theme, e.g. by interviewing experts or distributing questionnaires. The skills lab should result in a concrete product that can be assessed, like a research report, evaluation report or policy advice. The product consists of an individual product (40% of the final grade) and a group product (20%). In addition students write an individual report in which they describe the activities during the lab and reflect on the degree to which their learning goals have been achieved (40%).

Career orientation:
Like the internship, the politics and society lab explicitly aims at giving students the opportunity to gain practical experience and get acquainted with the labour market.

Before starting your internship you need to have completed the following courses:
GKMV17015 Ges-Toolbox
GKMV17014 Ges-Challenges of the Welfare State

MA-Thesis History of Politics and Society (compulsory)

The topic of the thesis (c. 15,000 words) should be related to one of the core themes of the MA-programme. Students will be offered a choice from several topics, such as: democracy, citizenship, collective action, the welfare state, civil society, and capitalism/the market. Students are expected to use the theories and methods acquired during the MA-programme. Preparations for the thesis take place in the course Themes in the History of Politics and Society, where students will be expected to write their thesis design.

Before starting your thesis you need to have completed the following courses:
GKMV17013 GES-Cities, States and Citizenship
GKMV17015 GES-Toolbox
GKMV17016 GES-Themes in the History of Politics and Society