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Security in Historical Perspective


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can join this course.


What does security mean and when did it emerge as object of unified, centralized state policy? In this course we will historicize the concept and practices of security in the sense that we will map its traces through time, embed various security thoughts and philosophies in their respective timeframes and gauge its scope, object and subject, as well as its impact on society. Our focus will be on the modern era, ranging from the 19th century until the present day. We will take the methodology as offered by the Copenhagen School as our analytical tool kit, combining this with Foucauldian analysis of governmentality and securitization as well. The course starts with some theoretical underpinnings; we will read primary source material on security philosophy and then proceed through history. Country wise, we will concentrate on Europe and on the Netherlands. Students are asked both to read primary material, conduct primary research into security issues on their own and use and adopt the Copenhagen and Foucaldian concepts in their work.

Course objectives

After completing the course the student has a clear understanding of:

  • How the idea of security as a state’s objective and prerogative emerged and how it changed over time, since the 19th century up until the present

  • Major historical developments in security thinking and practices

  • The Copenhagen School theory on securitization

  • Michel Foucault’s notions of security dispositives and governmentality
    Students will be able to:

  • To analyze the complex and ever-changing phenomenon of security policy and agenda setting

  • To operate theoretical and critical concepts to better understand evolving security practices

  • Historicize security: they have acquainted themselves with some crucial security breaches, incidents, failures and shifts in modern European history

  • To develop their own analysis of historical or present day security practices or philosophies by writing a paper based upon the concepts adopted in this course.


Block III, more details to be announced

The (provisional) timetable is on the first page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The sessions dedicated to lectures and discussion.

Assessment method

Two elements of coursework constitute the final grade for the course:

  • Final written exam 75%

  • Participation (weekly assignments and individual contribution during lectures) 25%
    Participation will be assessed based upon your individual contribution to discussions and debates in class and upon the weekly assignments.In order to successfully complete this course, each week students are required to hand in an assignment, consisting oftwo theses and corresponding arguments based on the required reading materials for that week. The assignments will not be graded, but will count for participation. The final grade for participation will be made available on Blackboard within three weeks after the lastlecture.
    The weekly assignments have to be uploaded to Blackboard 48 hours before class. Please upload the assignments as a single Word document to Blackboard. Additionally, students are required to hand in a hardcopy version of their assignment before class.
    Note: you can only upload your document once. Make sure you upload the right document before submitting the assignment online.
    Guidelines for the weekly assignments:

  • Format: Times New Roman 12; spacing 1.5; max. 300 words total

  • Make sure you clearly state your name, student number, course and due date (i.e.: week 1) of the assignment at the top of the document and try to limit the assignment to a single page

  • Present two theses, each consisting of a clear statement and underlying arguments, relating to the assigned literature of that week

  • Be critical and original, provide constructive criticism and invite further discussion
    Assessment criteria for the weekly assignments:

  • It should be well structured

  • It should relate to the assigned literature

  • It should provide proof of a clear understanding of the coursework

  • It should provide a clear statement and a sound line of argumentation

  • It should invite further discussion

Reading list/Literature

To be announced


Instructor uses Blackboard.



Contact information Prof.dr. Beatrice de Graaf Liesbeth van der Heide