nl en

Historical Methods: Transnational LGBT Activism since the 1970s


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Birth of the Modern World


This course offers an introduction to the theories and methods of history as a field of knowledge, with a thematic focus on LGBT activism. Students will learn about (and have an opportunity to research) the diffusion of LGBT identities and social movements across Europe and beyond, from the 1970s to the 1990s. We will also examine how LGBT activists interfaced with states, international bodies, and international legal regimes—as well as with one another. As such, the course is likely to be interest to students in HD, WP, and IJ.

We will begin with an exploration of what distinguishes history from other disciplinary ways of knowing. We will touch upon various historiographical traditions, with a particular focus on the unique contributions of historians of gender and sexuality. From here, we will critically examine the ways historians have written about our chosen theme. Working with a handful of example essays, we will consider such questions as: the words historians use; their narrative style, sources, methods, organization, and framing; their assumptions about historical causation and human nature; and their application (or avoidance) of social-scientific theory.

We will also work with primary sources. First, we will get experience locating such sources, using online and (where possible) traditional archival repositories. Then we will hone our skills of analysis. What methods should we use to interpret documentary, visual, or oral evidence? Why, where, when, and how were various sources created, circulated, and received—and why does it matter? How can we read for and interpret silences and omissions? Why are certain sources collected, while others evade preservation?

Along the way, students will pursue independent projects in which they will apply historical methods and theories to their own research questions. They will gain experience in narrowing down a topic, devising a research question, synthesizing historiographical literature, identifying and interpreting a body of sources, managing notes and data, and, finally, putting it all into writing. In this respect, our seminar will function as a workshop, where students will present on their progress and share ideas about the challenges, joys, and frustrations of historical research.

Course Objectives

This course will help students develop 1) content knowledge about the history of LGBT social movements in transnational perspective; 2) familiarity with the historiography of gender and sexuality; and 3) practical skills in historical research.

Successful completion of the course will enable students to:

  • Identify the various aims and methods of historical scholarship, with a particular eye toward the themes of gender and sexuality

  • Effectively navigate online and archival repositories of primary sources

  • Skillfully analyze and synthesize both primary and secondary sources

  • Devise and justify the design of a substantial research project

  • Practice the skills required for writing a capstone proposal in history


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

Mode of instruction

Students should be aware that this is a research workshop demanding substantial independent reading beyond the syllabus. The core teaching will take place in person. One-on-one advising is possible during office hours. We will also host at least one or two visiting speakers who will tell us about their work. Moreover, we will also make use of local archives and libraries – particularly IHLIA, the LGBT archive in Amsterdam.

Assessment Method

Class participation (10%)

Preliminary proposal, due in week 5 (20%)

Weekly research journal, submitted as a portfolio in week 8 (30%)

Final project, due in week 8 (40%)

Reading list

Readings will be made available digitally. Authors we are likely to encounter include (among others): Leila Rupp, Charles Tilly, David Paternotte, Manon Tremblay, Jeffrey Weeks, Joseph Massad, Dennis Altman, Roderick Ferguson, Jasbir Puar, Andrew Shield, Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, and Wigbertson Julian Isenia.


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,


Drs. Noah Littel (they/them),