nl en

Historical Research Methods (Semester 1)




Admissions requirements

Birth of the Modern World or a different history course (or permission from the instructor).


This course introduces students to theories and methods of history as a field of knowledge guiding them through independent historical research projects on a selected topic within the broad theme of MIGRATION AND THE NATION.

This is a research seminar where students will be required to do substantial reading outside of the classroom, prepare group presentations, and visit an archival institution (both guided and independently) to make assignments building up to their final 3000-4000 word methodological essay.

The course will consist of two parallel tracks (corresponding to the two weekly classes) in which the students 1) get acquainted with the field of migration studies and its’ methodological challenges and constraints when dealing with historical case studies and 2) explore a wide range of primary and secondary sources and discuss their limitations as well as added value for writing more inclusive national (or alternative) histories. This knowledge will be put into practice from week 2 onwards, when students consult online collections (like or and visit archival institutions (like the National Archives or the Expatriate Archive Centre) to prepare for their weekly assignments.

After a general introduction to some important works in the field of Migration History (such as for Europe Charles Tilly and Leslie Page Moch, and for the Netherlands Leo Lucassen and Marlou Schrover) we will question how migration scholars framed their research questions, what sources they selected, what source criticism they practiced, and what narrative they finally presented in their work? We will also look at alternative approaches to migration by scholars from Anthropology, Sociology and Area Studies who debate issues such as ‘methodological nationalism’, ‘diasporic memory’, and the ‘mobilities paradigm’.

By means of the parallel classes dealing with different types of sources, the students explore alternative approaches for scholars in the field of Migration History and suggest their own, perhaps more inclusive research design for a history of migration or the nation. Can overseas newspapers or radio broadcasts help us reconstruct or rethink the national image? Will oral histories and private letters uncover new truths about Dutch tolerance and hospitality? And do local or private archives perhaps provide different perspectives on mobility through police and personnel records than national census records do?

In the final essay the students review two types of (self-selected) primary sources and assess the different implications that the choice between the two may have for writing local-, national-, global- or migration histories. This review will have to include a clear research question, a synthesis of the relevant historiographical literature and original source criticism. This course will provide students with the experience to work with primary sources and to start thinking about the research design of their capstone projects.

Course objectives

After successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Identify, explain, and employ the aims, philosophies, and methodologies of historians (with an awareness of how these overlap with and depart from other approaches in the humanities and social sciences).

  • Reflect on the use of historical insight as a starting point for current normative debates

  • Devise a substantial independent research project and see it through to completion

  • Skillfully analyze and synthesize both primary and secondary sources

  • Explain the tensions between national histories and migration in the 19th and 20th century

  • And propose alternative approaches to doing research on mobile and diverse communities


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Research seminar, in which the students will be expected to participate actively.

  • At home, you will read articles from the field of Migration History and more general reviews of different types of sources (from Dobson & Ziemann) and you will do short assignments to familiarize yourself with the historical craft. (which in some cases involves visiting the archives in The Hague together with a classmate)

  • In class, we will discuss these texts and assignments.

  • At home, you will write different stages of your paper, culminating in the final version.

  • In class, you will present your research. You will gain feedback by your fellow students and the teacher.

  • We will also be taking several field trips to historical archives.


Class participation (incl. excursions), 20%
Individual and group assignments (incl. presenting the outcomes in class), 10%
Individual presentation, 20%
Outline and initial draft (2000 words), 10%
Final paper (3000-4000 words), 40%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

M. Dobson and B. Ziemann (eds.), Reading Primary Sources. The Interpretation of Texts from Nineteenths and Twentieth-century History (London 2009)

Other literature will be mentioned on blackboard.

Students will be required to do substantial reading on their own research topic.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact