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Historical Research Methods (Semester 2)




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. In order to lend coherence to the discussions, this class will be structured around the theme Migration, Mobility and the State. It will explore the interaction between the theoretical/secondary literature on this subject and sources produced in a variety of historical contexts.

In the first week, students will become acquainted with source criticism and its relationship to the historical discipline, as well as familiarize themselves with some of the main issues animating the historiography on migration and mobility. Thereafter, using specific case studies from three geographies (Europe, South Asia and the Americas), we will consider the relationship between methodological approaches (migration/mobility) and source materials produced in diverse contexts. We will explore, for instance, what new insights sources related to mobile peoples in South Asia hold for existing understandings of ‘community‘; what ‘agency’ meant for fugitive slaves absconding across national boundaries in nineteenth-century North America. These are, of course, very specific examples; however, the overarching aim each week will be to bring new sources, or new readings of old sources, to refine ‘mobility’ and ‘migration’ as tools of historical analysis.

Students will be expected to prepare brief reviews of secondary literature and primary sources, with special emphasis upon how sources have shaped and could further contribute to historiographical debates. The final paper will take the form of a research proposal. It 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, we expect students to be able to:

  1. Identify various aims and methods of historical scholarship
  2. Explore the role of primary sources in shaping the possibilities and limits of the historical craft
  3. Skilfully analyse and synthesize both primary and secondary sources
  4. Contemplate the influence of different sources and contexts in shaping theoretical discussions of migration, mobility and their relationship(s) with the state.
  5. Devise a substantial independent research project and see it through to completion


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This is a research seminar where students will be required to do substantial reading outside of the classroom, prepare group presentations, visit an archive and write a final 3000-4000 word research proposal.

After the introductory week, the Monday class will be devoted to secondary literature, and the Thursday class to analysing related primary sources. For each session, different students will be assigned either a secondary or primary source to present to the whole group. Thereafter, we will discuss (depending on the material at hand) what the central historiographical issues are, and how primary materials might be used to contribute fruitfully to the debate. Alongside, students will be expected to prepare their final paper (research proposal), which will also be discussed in class as a work-in-progress. Finally, we will visit the National Archives in The Hague, as well as exploring digitized databases.


Class participation (incl. excursions), 20%
Individual and group assignments (incl. presenting the outcomes in class), 20%
Individual presentation, 10%
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