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Captain’s of Industry. Dutch Ship Builders and Ship Building Industry since World War II


Admission requirements



In this research seminar students will explore the Dutch shipbuilding industry since World War II. Attention will be given to the role of shipyard owners and investors, to the policy of the Dutch government towards the shipbuilding industry and to the process of innovation since the crisis in shipbuilding in the 1970s and 1980s. Initially Dutch shipbuilding was rather underdeveloped between World War I and World War II. After the Second World War, however, Dutch shipbuilding industry was modernised and acquired a strong position in the international market for large ocean-going vessels. The industry reached its top capacity in the 1960s with approximately 50.000 workers employed in shipbuilding only. At the beginning of the 1970s the shipbuilding industry in the Netherlands and other European countries started to decline. After the oil crisis of 1973 and the rise of low-wage countries in shipbuilding industry Dutch shipyards were losing their competitive position. This led to a process of increased government involvement (subsidies) and mergers of shipyards. Unfortunately all these measures could not stop the decline of the sector. The collapse of the Dutch shipbuilding industry finally let to bankruptcy of large shipyards and an enormous political scandal known as the RSV affair. After a long period of decline Dutch shipbuilding industry started to recover in the 1990s. Shipbuilding in the Netherlands, however, had shifted from the production of large ocean-going vessels like oil tankers to purpose-build vessels. Nowadays shipbuilding industry in the Netherlands is a strongly technology oriented and innovative economic sector. The primary sources we will use include: archives of shipbuilders, annual reports of shipbuilders, and the RSV inquiry.

Course objectives

Students will aquire:

  • The ability to independently identify and select sources

  • The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • The ability to interpret a corpus of sources

Knowledge and comprehension of one of the development of maritime history. More specifically students will acquire insight into the organization and development of the Dutch shipbuilding industry since World War II. They also will improve their ability to conduct research in archives, collections of newspapers and literature. Student will be trained in oral presentation and are expected to produce a paper based on a well-structured argument.

Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation, more specifically comparative research; archive research.

Extra course objectives for Res Master Students:

  • The ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources

  • The ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates

  • Knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialisation

Mode of instruction

  • Research seminar


Timetable History

Course Load

Total cours load: 280 hours

  • Lectures: 2 hours x 14 weeks = 28 hours

  • Archival research, literature study, writing paper = 252 hours

Assessment method

A paper demonstrating the following skills:

  • The ability to independently identify and select literature

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch

  • The ability to engage with constructive academic feedback

A presentation and participiation in class discussions, demonstrating the following skills:

  • The ability to give a clear oral report on the research results in English or Dutch

  • The ability to provide constructive academic feedback

Assesment and grading method (in percentages):

  • essay literature: 15%

  • presentation and involvement in disussions: 15%

  • research paper: 70%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the teacher.

Additional requirements for the ResMa students: The paper has to be based on more extensive archival research or research based on primary sources. The student has to show (especially in the paper) innovative insights.



Reading list

  • C. de Voogd, De neergang van de scheepsbouw en andere industriële bedrijfstakken (Vlissingen 1993), ISBN: 90-74576-04-4.


via uSis

Contact information

dhr. Prof.dr.. H.J. den Heijer