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Elective: Social struggles: global histories of capital, labour and society


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies course who have succesfully completed the second year elective course.

The number of participants is limited to 25.


This course addresses the complex historical relationship between labour and capital within societies in different parts of the world. Case studies will not be confined to any particular geographical area. In adopting a “global” approach, the aim is to focus equal attention on the rich part of the world (the so-called “global North”) and the rest of the world (the so-called “global-South”).
A range of topics will be covered in seeking to better appreciate modern-day global capitalism as part of a historical process. These topics will include: the different modes of pre-capitalist production, the capitalist “revolution”, the historical development of the free market, the various ways in which human labour is exploited and optimized/rewarded, social movements and repressions, precarisation of labour and life in the modern world, etc.
The work and perspectives of prominent historians will be examined, such as: Fernand Braudel’s rupture with traditional historiography and the new vision of economic history that arose from this rift; Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-theory historical approach; Samir Amin’s historical global materialism; Rosa Luxembourg’s analysis of capital accumulation, to mention but a few.
Particular emphasis will be placed on the study of Global Labour History (GLH). GLH concerns the history of all those people who through their work have built our modern world – not only wage labourers, but also chattel slaves, sharecroppers, housewives, the self-employed, and many other groups. It focuses on the labour relations of these people, as individuals but also as members of households, networks and other contexts. GLH will touch on free and unfree work, as well as paid and unpaid work. The role of households in economic history will be studied as well, as it is in the context of the family as reproductive nucleus of the labour force that gender-driven exploitation takes place, to the detriment of women.

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 the course aims to enhance 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 accordance 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. to respect 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 accordance with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustrations 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.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:
Lectures: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks = 24 hours
Reading literature & preparing for class: ca. 96 hours
Oral presentation and writing paper: ca. 160 hours

Assessment method

Attendance and participation: 30%
Oral presentation: 30%
Final paper of 4,000 words (excluding tables and bibliography): 40%
Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0


Blackboard will be used for this course. For tutorial groups: after your enrolment in uSis, students are requested to register on Blackboard

Reading list

A list of readings will be distributed before class (with the syllabus). Below are some general texts from which some of the reading material will be taken.

Websites and videos (films, interviews and documentaries) will also be used.

Samir Amin, Global History: A View from the South, Pambazuka Press, 2010

Fernand Braudel, Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism, The John Hopkins University Press, 1979

Thomas Piketty, Capital in the XXI Century, Belknap Press, 2014

Paul Bairoch, Economics and World History, University of Chicago Press, 1993

Marcel van der Linden, Workers of the World, Brill, 2008

Edgar Morin, Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future, UNESCO Pub, 1999

Booth, W.C., G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Stefano Bellucci, email