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Birth of the Modern World


Admission requirements



History as a professional academic discipline developed in tandem with the rise of the modern nation-state. This course, by contrast, highlights aspects of the human past that transcend any single nation-state, empire, or politically-bound territory. Covering the period from 1500 to 2000, it will acquaint students with a range of important social formations: from the development of cities, to the impact of long-distance trade and migration, to the rise and fall of nations and empires (as well their related ideologies) and the development of transnational social movements. The course will introduce students to some classic debates among historians and how these changed with the advent of Global History. What does it mean to be “modern”? What do we talk about when we talk about “globalization”? By exploring concepts and questions like these—through scholarly readings, individual writing assignments; and classroom discussion—students will become practiced in thinking historically about social, economic, and political phenomena that continue to shape our world today.

Course Objectives


  • summarize, analyze, compare, and evaluate the competing arguments of historians.

  • engage with dense, sometimes lengthy scholarly texts—both critically and carefully.

  • engage with primary sources.

  • present a historical topic to a non-specialist audience.


  • discuss the significant patterns, processes, and events of modern global history;

  • provide a critical historical perspective on the concept of “globalization”.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

During this class we will practice critical reading and we will reflect on the literature by discussing and debating the assigned literature. Students will become practiced in “thinking historically” about social, economic, and political phenomenon that continue to shape our world today by bringing current events explicitly into the discussion of the literature. In addition, each student will give a presentation on a primary source that is related to the literature.

Assessment Method

  • Class Participation: 15%

  • Presentation: 15%

  • Web Post or ACI: 30%

  • Final Paper (1500 words): 40%

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr Lionel Laborie,