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Configuring the World


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.


The world is an exciting and diverse place and no two areas are ever the same. But even within areas, there are differences between regions and between groups of citizens. These differences are often described on the basis of numerical measurements, usually aggregated at some higher level. But even if the numbers carry the same name and classification what do they actually measure and are they strictly comparable?
This course examines various aspects of the world through the medium of global data bases and encourages students (critically) to compare and present experiences in an attractive and comprehensible format. As the course develops, we will use some statistical techniques to combine and manipulate the data sets and to explore causal links between the different phenomena examined and to suggest directions in which that causation may run.

  1. Blended Learning
    1. Configuring the World
    2. Population
    3. Production
    4. Projects
    5. Human Development
    6. Poverty
    7. Fractionalisation
    8. Governance
    9. Trust
    10. State frailty
    11. Size
    12. Happiness
    13. Review

The course will employ ‘blended learning’ to provide an interface between lectures, our-of-class activities and face-to-face tutorials. The course is also supported by its own website

Course objectives

Students will learn to:

  • Locate and employ datasets

  • Execute elementary statistical exercises

  • Examine differences between regions and nations at national and sub-national levels

  • Critically evaluate the accuracy and biases in statistical evidence

  • Present evidence in a visually effective way

  • Present their findings in a clear and concise English

  • Posit hypotheses of causal relationships between phenomena

  • Understand how statistics helps verify or refute causal relationships


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

One two hour lecture per week; bi-weekly tutorials.

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Assessment method

30% Weekly assignment and (virtual) class-room participation*
50% Individual Project
20% Final Exam

*This will be a group grade but individuals will lose points for missing deadlines and failures to participate in discussions


Blackboard will be used. Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

R.T. Griffiths, Configuring the World (draft textbook)
D. Smith, The State of the World Atlas, 9th edition, 2013


The student administration will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable