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Research Workshop: Primary Sources and Culture in the Weimar Republic


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


The Weimar Republic (1918-1933), the first democracy on German soil, was characterized by huge political, economic and social tensions, but also by a tremendous cultural flowering. In this workshop we will study the Weimar Republic in its political and cultural versatility, considering the republic also from the perspective of its opportunities: the collapse in 1933 was not inevitable.
For that purpose we will study and discuss different kinds of primary sources, all available through the internet. The first kind of sources are political and cultural documents and images, for example on the Bauhaus, the emancipation of women, the revolution of 1918/19, discussions in the Reichstag about the Peace of Versailles, the roaring twenties in Berlin. The sources vary very much: we will read and discuss diary notes, letters, parts of novels, political pamphlets and newspapers, but we will also study paintings and watch (parts of) films. We will discuss how valuable and reliable these different kinds of sources for a historian can be.
The second kind of sources are the so called Abel-papers, i.e. short autobiographies, written in 1934 by men and women who became a member of the NSDAP or the SA before 1933. In these autobiographies they explained their main motives. How valuable and reliable are these sources for a historian, and what are the problems and pitfalls?

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

The student has acquired:

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Workshop

The student:

  • 13) knows how to close-read, analyse and critically reflect on the use of different kinds of primary sources, and use them effectively and creatively in the practice of historical research

  • 14) has aquired the ability to critically assess primary sources for the study of Weimar Germany

  • 15) has acquired in-depth knowledge of important primary sources of Weimar Germany and its application for historical research;

  • 16) has acquired the ability to use a more complex corpus of sources in comparison to regular MA students; and/or the ability to set up and carry out original research which raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or and points to new directions for future research.


The timetable is available on the MA History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Workshop (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method

  • Written final report (3000 words, based on discussion of primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography) based on research in primary sources or reflection on these sources

  • Joint small assignments about sources and literature

  • Participation in class and online


Written paper: 75%
Assignments: 10%
Participation: 15%


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

Will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. P.G.C. Dassen


The Abel papers are written in the German language. If the student can’t read German texts he alternatively can choose translated English texts (other sources).