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The Wars of Religion in a Transnational Context: 1550-1650


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


The history of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe is marked by religious conflict. On many occasions, the breakdown of religious unity led to outbursts of violence and even warfare. Examples abound, including the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch Revolt, the Thirty Years War, and the English Civil War. Though all are the subject of extensive (national) historiographies, the many links that connect them are largely neglected.

A closer look at the evidence shows that contemporaries did not view these struggles from a national perspective. Instead, they were fully aware of the many connections that linked these conflicts. The rapidly expanding market for international news ensured that audiences across Europe were kept up to date about the ins and outs of foreign wars. Professional mercenary soldiers often fought in multiple conflicts. Refugees facilitated the creation of transnational social and religious networks. Aware of the possible impact of conflicts across the border, princes and rulers felt the need for diplomatic and military intervention. Finally, confessional solidarity transcended borders.

In this course, students will write papers based on the reading of original sources that tell us something about the links between two or more wars of religion. These sources include news, correspondence, diplomatic papers, and ego-documents.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3) The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;

  • in the specialisation Europe 1000-1800: broader processes of political, social and cultural identity formation between about 1000-1800; awareness of problems of periodisation and impact of ‘national’ historiographical traditions on the field.

  • 12) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:

  • in the specialisation Europe 1000-1800: the ability to analyse and evaluate primary sources from the period, if necessary with the aid of modern translations; ability to make use of relevant methods of quantitative and qualitative analysis to interpret sources in their textual and historical context.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  • 13) Will have a good knowledge of the relationships and connections between the Europe’s major wars of religion.

  • 14) Will be familiar with the questions and methodologies of transnational history.

  • 15) Will learn to effectively integrate separate national historiographies into one research project.

  • 16) (ResMA only): – Will be able to effectively incorporate different genres of sources into one research project.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 12 x 2 hours = 24 hours;

  • Study of compulsory literature: 72 hours;

  • Tutorials: 2 hours;

  • Preparation oral presentation: 20 hours;

  • Writing the paper: 162 hours;

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 12-15 (ResMa also 16)

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7, 12-15

  • Assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 1-5, 7-9, 11-15


Written paper: 65 %
Oral presentation: 20 %
Assignments and participation: 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 sufficent.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Exam review

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


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Course overview and weekly assignments

Reading list

Wayne P. Te Brake, Religious War and Religious Peace in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Additional literature will be made available through the University Library.


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. Jonas van Tol