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Transatlantic Relations Inside Out: Europe and the U.S. in the 20th Century


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges


While addressing a few thousands French and German students in 2009, Barack Obama acknowledged that for many years the U.S. had failed “to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world,” stressing that this had brought many Americans to take a “dismissive, even derisive" stance towards Europe. At the same time, he pointed the finger at the persistent and insidious anti-Americanism that had induced many Europeans to blame America for much of what was bad in the world. Obama's analysis went straight to the point: mutual misunderstandings and mistrust have been integral part of what has been, historically, a very complex relationship between the two shores of the Atlantic. The narrative of an unquestioned transatlantic alliance, a homogenous Western culture, a persistent unity of intents is far too dismissive of this complexity. This English-taught course fully reckons with it, by relying on an in-depth analysis of the historical development of the transatlantic relations, their main institutional settings, and their constant bottom-up redefinition.

Content-wise, this course will provide students with the theoretical compass they need to understand the historical development of the transatlantic exchange. The classes will stress out the relevance of such concepts as empire, alliance, and asymmetric partnership, and they will pay particular attention to the cultural and transnational crossings that have affected the transatlantic relations as a whole. For this reason, the course will be connectect with both the Kerncollege ‘De grenzen van de macht’ (sem. I) and the Kerncollege ‘Global connections’ (sem. II). In addition, due to its interdisciplinary character, at the crossroads of several historiographical fields including intellectual, cultural, social, and political history, the course is meant to spur students on to broaden their interpretive paradigms and research interests.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

  • 1) carry out a common assignment

  • 2) devise 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 first year 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 specifically:
    -in 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 American History: American exceptionalism; the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography; the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe;
    -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 of
    -in the specialisation General History: the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories;
    -in the track American History: exceptionalism; analysis of historiografical and intellectual debates;
    -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

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • 8) Interpret critically different types of primary sources concerning the historical development of transatlantic relations;

  • 9) Apply IR theories and historical methods to their research;

  • 10) Draw up a detailed research plan, formulate a research question, and carry out a limited historical research

  • 11) Understand the historical trajectories of the Euro-American cultural, political and economic ties and exchanges.


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

  • Preparation for classes (including oral presentations): 24 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 80 hours

  • Writing a paper (including literature study): 150 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (5000-6000 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography) measured learning objectives: 2-4, 6-7, 9-11

  • Individual oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-4, 6-7, 9-11

  • Participation
    measured learning objectives: 5

  • Group presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 8


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Participation, including group presentation: 20%

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, as published in the corresponding Blackboard course.


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline, as published in the corresponding Blackboard course.

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 of deadlines for assignments and papers

Reading list

  • Mary Nolan, The Transatlantic Century. Europe and America, 1890-2010 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

  • For each class, the instructor will distribute further bibliographical references, including primary sources, e-reserve articles, and excerpts from books.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dario Fazzi