nl en

Comparing and Connecting: Medieval and Early Modern Worlds


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.


A human grouping's history more often than not has a strong local core: a place, a language; shared stories and memories. Any ‘imagined’ community cultivates its own history. The methods and objectives of academic history do not as a rule copy such shared histories. Nevertheless, history as a discipline has had national overtones. A preoccupation with the development of the nation state characterized traditional historiography. While this approach has lost most of its appeal, funding structures, social commitment, and academic institutions still push historians to examine first and foremost their own environs. In practical terms, the need to master languages as well as a variety of media and scripts restrict historical research's scope. This regional focus clashes with the intellectual need to juxtapose the histories of different areas. Indeed, not only does comparison underline patterns in human behaviour; it also reveals telling divergences: the specificity of any single region becomes visible only in comparison.

Yet comparison has often been used to validate stereotypes by implicitly using the trajectories of one set of nations or a ‘civilisation’ as a model, to be contrasted with less positive development elsewhere. The ‘Rise of the West’ is a classic example. As a consequence, comparison has been criticized by scholars who underline the impact of connections and the hybridity of cultures. But is comparison always so fraught with dangers?

In this course we take for granted the need to look at the histories of different places and periods together, and examine two competing approaches, ‘connected’ history and comparison. We will study classic examples of the two, consider the fruitful combination of the two approaches, and invite students to actively engage in research that crosses boundaries in place and time.

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;

  1. 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;

  2. 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;

  3. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  4. (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 Europe 1000-1800: broader processes of political, social and cultural identity formation between about 1000-1800; awareness of problems of periodisation and impact of ‘national’ historiographical traditions on the field.

  1. (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. will have a thorough knowledge of debates on cross-cultural comparison and interaction in medieval and early modern history;

  2. understands the complexity of these debates in terms of the use of historical concepts; has the capacity to engage with current debates on the possibilities and complications of global comparison as well as the connections;

  3. will be able to develop her/his own critical view of a specific aspect of these debates through oral presentations and written papers, based on the reading of several recent monographs and a selection of articles.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

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, he is required to notify the lecturer 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 lecturer 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


  • Participation in discussion through Brightspace discussion board as well as in the group
    measured learning objectives: 2, 4-6, 8-10, for ResMA students also 5

  • Opening assignment
    measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10

  • Midterm and essay:
    measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10, for Res MA students also 7


  • Opening assignment: 10%

  • Participation (discussion board and group): 20%

  • Midterm: 20%

  • Essay: 50%

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

  • will be made available before the course starts


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment 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.