nl en

History & Politics of Global Migration


Admission requirements

Required course:

  • Birth of the Modern World


In this course we will examine how the idea of a world population has fueled political discussions in the modern world. With the contemporary ‘refugee crisis’ and ‘Covid-19 crisis’ in mind, we will investigate in particular how the world population has been discussed in terms of migration and health. Most of our focus will be dedicated to what has occurred in the twentieth and twenty-first century. We will start in week 1 by exploring how the global movement of human and non-human actors could be studied and how migration and health have become world political issues. We will then turn to more empirical examples that cover different aspects of the history of the world population, migration and health. One weekly seminar will be dedicated to global migration, while the other weekly seminar will focus on global health. In week 7 we will discuss two contemporary case studies in relation to what we have learned from history. Topics covered include global migration governance, asylum, eugenics, international disability law, critical global health. Due to the global nature of the course, texts will include studies concerning Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America.

Course Objectives


  • To enable students to consider contemporary migration and health debates from historical perspectives

  • To provide students with a range of opportunities to develop their analytical and presentation skills

  • To assist students to apply migration and global health theory to the analysis of empirical case studies

  • To facilitate students to independently formulate clear and well-argued opinions concerning migration and health


  • To provide students with an overview of how migration and health have become modern political issues

  • To expose students to the various disciplinary approaches that scholars use to examine migration and health

  • To encourage students to compare and contrast past migration and health with more contemporary patterns and debates


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught predominantly through seminars. The seminars will often feature a short overview from the instructor about the topic under analysis. The focus will be on a common understanding of and debate about the assigned readings and related contemporary issues.

Every week one of the seminars will begin with a short group presentation (c. 20 minutes) of a primary historical source. We will end these seminars with a class debate that will be student-led. Assigned groups will be expected to provide arguments to support and oppose certain motions.

Seminars will sometimes involve group work analysing the assigned literature and/or other sources, such as video clips, art, music, podcasts, etc.

Assessment Method

Participation (10%)
Literature reviews (15%)
Assignment ‘social life of an object’ (20%)
Group presentations on primary sources (10%)
Abstract (5%)
Final essay (40%)

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.

Reading list

  • Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Cleveland: World Publishing Company (2nd ed.), 1958 (extracts).

  • Bashford, Alison, Global Population. History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth, Columbia University Press, 2014 (extracts).

  • Bhattacharya, Sanjoy, ‘Global and Local Histories of Medicine: Interpretative Challenges and Future Possibilities’, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine, edited by Mark Jackson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  • Biruk, Cal (Crystal), ‘Soap. Touching objects, feeling critique in critical global health studies’, Medicine Anthropology Theory 6, 2 (2019) 151-164.

  • Castles, Stephen, Hein De Haas, and Mark J. Miller, The age of migration: International population movements in the modern world, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014 (extracts).

  • Eraso, Yolanda, ‘A burden to the state: the reception of the German 'Active Therapy' in an Argentinian colony-asylum in the 1920s and 1930s’, Transnational Psychiatries: Social and Cultural Histories of Psychiatry in Comparative Perspective C. 1800-2000, edited by W. Ernst and T. Mueller, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010, 51-79.

  • Gatrell, Peter, ‘Refugees—What’s Wrong with History?’, Journal of Refugee Studies 30, 2 (2017) 170–189.

  • Glynn, Irial, ‘The Genesis and Development of Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention’, Journal of Refugee Studies 25,1 (2012) 134-148.

  • Gorsky, Martin and Christopher Sirrs, ‘Human rights/human capital: a hundred years of ‘universal’ health coverage as a global goal’, Blogpost Somatosphere:

  • Herzog, Dagmar, Unlearning Eugenics. Sexuality, Reproduction, and Disability in Post-Nazi Europe, Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconson Press, 2018 (extracts).

  • Kingsley, Patrick, The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe's Refugee Crisis, London: Faber, 2016, 173-203.

  • Pearson, Jessica, The Colonial Politics of Global Health. France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2018.

  • Prince, Ruth J., ‘Utopian aspirations in a dystopian world: “Health for all” and the Universal Health Coverage agenda – an Introduction’ (2020), Blogpost Somatosphere:

  • Schrover, Marlou, Teuntje Vosters and Irial Glynn, ‘NGOs and West European Migration Governance (1860s until Present): Introduction to a Special Issue’, Journal of Migration History 5, 2 (2019) 189-217.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Paul van Trigt,