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Colonial Citizenship and Empire in Asia: 1780-1900


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.


The Atlantic revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century laid the conceptual foundations for modern national state building in Europe and in the colonial empires. Central to the revolutionary (enlightened) ideals was the language and promise of equality and citizenship rights. However, these ideals proved to be ‘Janus-faced’ since the practice of exercising political rights coincided primarily with the borders of the European nation-state and would often be denied to the people in the colonies.
Exclusion in the colonial empires was based on (a combination of) racial, cultural, religious and social-economic arguments. These arguments took different shapes and forms throughout the nineteenth century. In this research seminar we will explore the different questions surrounding the shaping and reshaping of imperial citizenship in the modern colonial empires between 1780-1900. We will discuss the different intellectual traditions that introduced inclusion and exclusion and hierarchical understandings of non-European peoples. Critical historians of colonial empires have already argued that the Enlightened emphasis on modernity, progress and its blueprints for civil development resulted in influential images of the “lazy native” and “oriental despots” that would be used to justify colonial hierachies. The literature further includes studies on the Dutch empire but comparisons with other empires in Asia will be made. Our research focus is on colonial policies, practices and its connection to the intellectual debates. Together we will mine colonial sources that were produced in various regions in Asia, to locate the arguments and unfulfilled promises surrounding citizenship in the long nineteenth century. There will be an entry test in this course (see reading list).

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;
  3. 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 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. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subtrack in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:
13. Will develop a thorough understanding on the complexities of colonialism, citizenship debates, colonial hierachies and the Enlightenment for the nineteenth century;
14. Will be able to use the citizenship debates in the Dutch case as well as other Empires in Asia, to engage and develop their own standpoint in the current international debates on empire and colonialism;
15. Will gain knowledge and practical experience in archival research of intellectual sources and in integrating in their research a critical reading of different primary sources with secondary literature;
16. (ResMA only – ResMA students are required to take a more interdisciplinary approach to the theme, by integrating theoretical insight(s) from philosophical and sociological studies on citizenship, enlightenment, and empire into their research.


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 paper (6.500-7.500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 13-15 (ResMA also: 16)

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 4, 8, 10-13

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 9, 13-15 (ResMA also: 16)


  • Written paper: 70 %

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Entry Test: 10 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper 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

No literature needs to be studied beforehand. Literature that needs to be studied for the entry test (in week 3) will include, but is not limited to:

  • Siep Stuurman, The Invention of Humanity. Equality and Cultural difference in World History (Cambridge and Londen, 2017).

  • Ann Stoler, “Reasons Aside: Reflections on Enlightenment and Empire.” In: Graham Huggan (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies (Oxford, 2015).

  • René Koekkoek, ‘Envisioning the Dutch Imperial Nation-State in the Age of Revolutions’, In: Koekkoek R., Richard AI., Weststeijn A. (eds.)., The Dutch Empire between Ideas and Practice, 1600–2000. (Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series. Cham 2019).


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.