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Historical Theory


Admission requirements

This course is offered exclusively to research master students in history. Others cannot attend this course.


This course discusses major problems in historical theory or philosophy of history through close readings of relevant texts. Topics that will be addressed include explanations, models, intentions, representations, narratives, paradigms, comparisons, objectivity, and ethics. Students write a 6,000 word paper in English or Dutch. Please note: this is an intensive research seminar, the success of which depends on the active participation of all students. Students are not only supposed to attend all classes and read all required materials, but also to contribute to discussions of the assigned materials, both online (on Blackboard, the electronic learning environment) and in class. At the end of the semester, students write a paper related to topics discussed in this course. Details will be discussed during the first class.

Course objectives

This course aims (a) to enable students to reflect on some major theoretical problems in historical studies and (b) to prepare students to analyze and evaluate selected writings of major historical theorists.


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

This course is an intensive research seminar. After brief introductions, each meeting will be devoted to a class discussion of assigned readings; attendance is compulsory.

Assessment method

Participation (25%) and written paper (75%).


Students will post questions and comments related to the weekly readings on Blackboard.

Reading list

Those students who have not attended a bachelor course in historical theory or philosophy of history are expected to prepare themselves by reading Mark Day, The Philosophy of Historiography: An Introduction (London; New York: Continuum, 2008), ISBN 978-0826488480 (paperback). All other reading materials (journal articles, book chapters) will be made available online or in photocopy form.


See enrolment-procedure

Contact information

Dr. Herman Paul