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Sacred Kingship at the Crossroads of Area Studies and Global History


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


In this Literature Seminar we will study sacred kingship as both a regional and a global phenomenon. After a brief historiographical and methodological overview of global history, we will start to gradually move out of the Western paradigm, to zoom in on regional expressions of sacred kingship in (1) Europe, (2) the Islamicate world, (3) the Indic world, (4) Southeast Asia, (5) Africa, and (6) the Americas and the Pacific. Hence, the first part of the course will highlight the local, emic perspective on sacred kingship and as such we will gain insight into the historiography and methodology of various Area Studies. In the second half of the course, we will shift from a regional to a thematic approach in an attempt of come to a global comparison of sacred kingship. After discussing such an approach in class, each student will write a short comparative essay (circa 4.000 words) on a more specific aspect of sacred kingship.

Week 1. Introduction
Week 2. Reading Break

PART 1. Area Studies
Week 3. Europe and Islamicate World
Week 4. Indic World and Southeast Asia
Week 5. Africa and Americas and Pacific

PART 2. Global Comparisons
Week 6. Round Table (Oakley)
Week 7. Round Table (Duindam)
Week 8. Round Table (Strathern)

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  5. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940).
  2. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  1. has acquired thorough knowledge and comprehesion of the field of Global History and Area Studies pertaining to sacred kingship.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, the student 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, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written essay (4000 words including footnotes/bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-2, 4, 6, 8 (ResMA also 5 and 7)

  • Participation and reception essay
    measured learning objectives: 1-2, 4, 6, 8 (ResMA also 5 and 7)

  • Assignment 1 (Group oral presentation)
    measured learning objectives: 1-3, 6, 8 (ResMA also 5)

  • Assignment 2 (Group roundtable)
    measured learning objectives: 1-3, 6, 8 (ResMA also 5)


  • Written essay: 50%

  • Participation: 10%

  • Assignment 1: 20%

  • Assignment 2: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written essay must always be sufficient.


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

Jeroen Duindam, “Rulers and Elites in Global History: Introductory Observations”, in Maaike van
Berkel and Jeroen Duindam (eds), Prince, Pen, and Sword: Eurasian Perspectives (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 1-32.

Global History
A. Francis Oakley, Kingship: The Politics of Enchantment (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006).
B. Jeroen Duindam, A Global History of Power, 1300-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).
C. Alan Strathern, Unearthly Powers: Religious and Political Change in World History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Area Studies

1. Europe
Marc Bloch, The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scofula in England and France (London: Routledge, 1973).
Ronald G. Asch, Sacral Kingship between Disenchantment and Re-Enchantment: The French and English Monarchies, 1587-1688 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2014).

2. Islamicate World
Aziz al-Azmeh, Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred in Muslim, Christian and Pagan Polities (London: Tauris, 1997).
A. Azfar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam (New York: Columbia University Press).
Ref. Alan Strathern, “Drawing the Veil of Sovereignty: Early Modern Islamic Empires and Understanding Sacred Kingship”, History and Theory, 53, 1 (2014), 79-93.

3. Indic World
Clifford Geertz, Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth-Century Bali (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980).
Nicholas B. Dirks, The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
Ref. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Reflections on State-Making and History-Making in South India, 1500-1800”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 41, 3 (1998), pp. 382-416

4. Southeast Asia
Soemarsaid Moertomo, State and Statecraft in Old Java: A Study of the Later Mataram Period, 16th to 19th Century (Ithaca NY: Equinox, 1963).
Peter Carey, The Power of Prophecy: Prince Dipanagara and the End of an Old Order in Java, 1785-1855 (Leiden: Brill, 2008).

5. Africa
Jan Vansina, Kingdoms of the Savanna (Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966).
Koen Stroeken, Medicinal Rule: A Historical Anthropology of East and Central Africa (New York: Berghahn Books, 2018).
Ref. David M. Gordon, “(Dis)embodying Sovereignty: Divine Kingship in Central African Historiography”, Journal of African History, 57, 1 (2016), 47-67.

6. Americas and Pacific
Suzan D. Gillespie, The Aztec Kings: The Construction of Rulership in Mexica History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1988).
Patrick Vinton Kirch, How Chiefs became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawaiʿi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.