nl en

Institutions in Time


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Institutions of Governance and Development and/or Introduction to Comparative Politics


The world is an unequal place. It hosts the unparalleled wealth and opportunities of the rich OECD countries, alongside the crushing poverty of the ‘bottom billion’. Moreover, this enormous development gap may never be greater than it is today. But what is this concept of ‘development’? How does it work? And, perhaps most importantly, what can we do to enhance it? These are the questions at the core of development studies and the International Development track at LUC. Institutions in Time explores the ways in which institutions, or the rules and organisations that structure society, change over time and the ways in which this may affect human development. To this end, the course will take students through the different ways of analyzing long historical processes and explore the usefulness of theories of institutional change as a means to understand the process that drives development. Students are also challenged to apply their (newfound) knowledge to case studies, in order to get a better appreciation of the complexity of structural societal change. Most importantly, the course helps students to think critically about assumptions of linear progress and simple, technocratic solutions in international development, and to formulate their own thoughts on what might actually ‘work’.

A lot of you will graduate and go and work in the development sector. This course will not tell you what specific development programmes or policy reforms to focus on, or how to implement them. The overarching goal in this course is to intellectually guide you to understand some of the big, revolutionary ideas and theories as well as case studies in international development. Particular emphasis will be given to topics such as: the historical legacies of slavery and colonialism, path dependence and increasing returns, timing and sequence in political processes, the limits of institutional design and institutional development, formal and informal institutions in time, democratization and institutional adaptation, and the nature and character of the state, etc.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Describe core challenges of international development empirically and identify different theoretical approaches to these challenges.

  • Show proficiency in reproducing concepts and theories of institutional change.

  • Apply concepts and theories of institutional change to key research problems in the field of international development.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught through two-hour interactive seminars. Seminars will generally include a short introduction by the instructor, after which students will be asked to present, debate, or otherwise reflect actively on the relevant theme and readings.

Assessment Method

  • Class participation, 10%

  • Assignments, 30%

  • Short essays, 40%

  • Final essay, 20%

Reading list

The list of readings will be made available upon commencement of the course.


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. David Ehrhardt
Dr. David Zetland