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Dams & development: concrete constructions in context


Admission requirements

(Voor Geschiedenis studenten). Beide tweedejaars BA-werkcolleges behaald.


Dams used to be emblems of modernity, providing electricity and irrigation. Dam projects also entailed highly prestigious and symbolic enterprises. Yet throughout the 20th century they became heavily contested, displacing people and harming the environment. This seminar takes dam projects as entry points into their wider socio-economic and political context. Questions that will be asked include: Who proposed these dams? What were the perceived economic benefits from these dams? What was their (geo-)political context?

Course objectives

After completing this course, students are able to:

  • understand the economic value of developing rivers by means of dams, for a number of aims.

  • understand the complex nature of dams and their construction, entangled in socio-political and economic context.

  • recognise how perceptions over seemingly natural techno-economic objects vary among actors with diverging stakes, and over time.

  • know how the transnational exchange of development ideas, expertise and finance.


See here

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Grading is based upon a presentation in class (20 %) and a paper (80 %; either in English or Dutch).


Blackboard will be used for short tests, and to distribute the links to full-text literature from the Leiden Digital Library.

Reading list

Student need to read two to three articles, chapter, or sources per seminar (between 40 & 50 pages a week). As a check, a short and simple test needs to be done via Blackboard. All reading materials will be available through the (digital) library.


See enrolment procedure for international students
Or aanmeldingsprocedure for Dutch students.

Contact information

Email: Dr. V.C. Lagendijk