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Radicalism in Early Modern Europe


Admission requirements

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


This course explores religious and political radicalism from the Reformation to the French Revolution. The great schism within medieval Christendom opened the door to a proliferation of new denominations. While Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism became equally recognised as official Churches by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, many other minorities, radical groups and movements remained in clandestinity and sought the protection of more tolerant patrons and rulers. In an age when politics and religion remained deeply intertwined, religious dissent became synonymous for political dissidence and could result in either wars, persecution, peaceful coexistence or exile.
Focusing on radicalism, this course aims to reappraise the place of religion in early modern political affairs by offering a bottom-up approach to the period through lesser known movements, communities and networks. Students will conduct original research on a case study of their choice based on primary source materials. Possible topics include political and religious radicalism, missionaries and itinerant preachers, clandestine literature, plots and conspiracies, millenarian and utopian movements, secret societies...
In addition to the requirements for this course, ResMa students will work from a transnational perspective and integrate different genres of primary source materials (pamphlets, correspondences, newspapers, ego documents) in their research.

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

The student has acquired:

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the specialisation or subspecialisation as well as of the historiography of the specialisation Europe 1000-1800, with a particular focus on the 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 Europe 1000-1800, with a particular focus on 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 acquire a general overview of historiography on early modern religion and radicalism, and familiarize themselves with the latest scholarship on the subject.

  • 14) Will develop the ability to conduct original research based on primary source material.

  • 15) Will learn how to approach historical controversies and to analyse polemical material.

  • 16) (ResMA only): – ResMA students will learn to work with different genres of primary sources efficiently.

  • 17) Will learn the problematics and methodologies of conducting research from a transnational perspective.

  • 18) The originality of their research will play a more important part in their final assessment.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    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

  • Classes: 12 x 2 = 24 hours

  • Literature review + research proposal: 46 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 20 hours

  • Oral presentation: 40 hours

  • Writing final paper: 150 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (7,500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-14; for ResMA students also 15

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 11-14

  • Literature review + research proposal
    measured learning objectives: 1-3

  • Participation during seminars
    measured learning objectives: 7-9; for ResMA students also 10


  • Written paper: 60 %

  • Oral presentation: 15%

  • Literature review + research proposal: 15%

  • Participation: 10 %

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.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Blackboard.


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 outline and materials

  • general communication

  • grades

Reading list

  • Ariel Hessayon and David Finnegan (eds), Varieties of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century English Radicalism in Context (Ashgate, 2011)

  • Bridget Heal and Anorthe Wetzel (eds), Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017)
    Additional readings will be indicated in the course syllabus.


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 Lionel Laborie