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Elective: Social Movements, Protest and Change in Europe – from 1968 to the present


Admission requirements

This course is only available for second year students in the BA International Studies. The number of participants is limited to 25.


The year 1968 saw a wave of massive protests over all the Western World, and beyond. The events of May 1968 in Paris, the Prague Spring and the Tet Offensive have become part of collective memory.

As students, youths and workers rallied and protested, they brought about social changes, but also faced heavy setbacks and occasionally repression.

Soon after, the movement withered out into a broad array of themes and issues, such as feminism, anti-racism, urban development, international solidarity and the peace movement.

Since then, social movements and political protest have played an important role in European politics. And while some movements were ultimately unsuccessful, they were very influential nonetheless.

What drives individual activists? How are social movements formed and how do they mobilize? Why do they succeed or fail? And what kind of changes can they bring about?

These questions will be central in this course. To answer them, central concepts and theories on social movements will be discussed, while a number of social movements will be focused on specifically.

These include the 1960s student movement, the feminist movement of the 1970s, the peace movement of the 1980s and the squatters movement, and the democratization movement in Eastern Europe.

The seminar will explore how these movements formed, how they evolved, what they brought about and what their legacy is.

Although the focus is on social movements in Europe, cases from outside of Europe can be brought forward by students.

Additionally, the students will work through W.C. Booth, G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.
Academic skills that are trained include:
Oral presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience;
3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:
1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:
1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.

Written presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, seminar style discussion and supervised research.

This course will be conducted as a seminar. During the first part of the course, we will discuss a set of assigned readings. During the second half of the course, students will give a more substantial individual presentation on a specific social movement. This topic will also be the focus of their research paper.
Before they give their presentation, the students should also post a provisional draft of the introduction of their written paper on Blackboard, which will be commented upon by the other students.
Both the presentation and the paper should be the result of an in-depth analysis of the selected movement, based on both secondary literature and primary source material.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • Total course load for the course: 10 × 28 hours= 280 EC. – Hours spent on attending lectures: 24 – Time for completing assignments and reading the literature: 84 – Research (including the oral presentation and work on the paper): 172

Assessment method

Oral presentation
Final paper of approx. 5-6,000 words (excluding tables and bibliography).

Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrollment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list


Enrollement through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

The student administration will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. B.S. van der Steen, email