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Comparative Colonial History: Dutch and British Indies, 1750-1950


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges


This course offers a thorough comparison of the nature of Dutch and British colonial rule, focusing in particular on the influence of the colonial administration on indigenous societies in the Dutch East Indies and British India, respectively. We look at the period of ca. 1750 until the decolonization. In making the comparison we use secundary literature. In the first weeks we discuss general literature by way of orientation, after which students team up in couples to do comparative research in a chosen subtopic. Students are trained in looking for secundary literature as well as in oral and written presentation. In a separate source assignment they are acquainted with primary source material on colonial India and Indonesia.
In this course the participants are provided with an overview of the colonial histories of South- and Southeast-Asia, with special attention for the colonial state. A central concern are the discussions and conflicts regarding the importance of legitimacy among the indigenous population for the stability of the colonial administration. This connects the seminar to the themes of the Kerncollege Grenzen van de Macht.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

  • 1) carry out a common assignment

  • 2) divise and conduct research of limited scope, including
    a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature:
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information:
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate:
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.

  • 3) reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;

  • 4) write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Syllabus Themacolleges, including
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.

  • 5) participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

  • 6) The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specificallyin the specialisation General History : the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions; in the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation: the development of global networks which facilitate ann ever growing circulation of people, animals, plants, goods and ideas, and the central role of European expansion in this from around 1500;

  • 7) Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically in the specialisation General History: of the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories; in the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation: the combining of historiographical debates with empirical research of primary sources and/or the combining of various historiographical traditions through the use of innovative research questions.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

  • 8) The student has gained knowledge and insight in the historiography and historical theory of the Dutch East Indies and British India (ca. 1750-1940);

  • 9) The student has gained knowledge and insight in the emergence and development of colonial states as a consequence of European expansion, as well as insight in the character of Dutch and British colonial rule, and the influence of the colonial administration and expansion on the societies of South- and Southeast-Asia.

  • 10) The student has gained knowledge and insight in comparative methods and critical insights in the various ways in which historians make use of colonial sources.


The timetable is available on the BA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (attendance required). This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Practical work: 26 hours

  • Tutorials: 1 hour

  • Study of compulsory literature: 60 hours

  • Assignment(s): 167 hours

Assessment method


  • Collaboratively written paper (ca. 6000 words, written in pairs: topic to be conceived collaboratively, each students writes one part, introduction and conclusion are written together. Based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-4, 6-10

  • Oral presentation (in pairs)
    measured learning objectives: 1, 3-4, 6-10

  • Participation
    measured learning objectives: 5, 6-10

  • Assignment 1 (analysis and comparison of a theme or event by studying a colonial newspaper from India and Indonesia)
    measured learning objectives: 3, 7-10


Written paper: 65%
Oral presentation: 15%
Particiation: 5%
Assignment 1: 15%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline.


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Communication between teacher and students;

  • Submitting assignments.

Reading list

  • Metcalf, B. and T. Metcalf, A concise history of modern India (Cambridge 2006).

  • Brown, Colin, A short history of Indonesia: the unlikely nation? (Crows Nest 2003).

  • Apart from these two books, some further articles will be assigned during the course or through Blackboard.


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. Bart Luttikhuis