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History & Politics of Global Migration: Central Europe and the World


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, though Birth of the Modern World is recommended.


In 1943, Simone Weil wrote that “to be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define.” The readings of this seminar explore concepts like rootedness, uprootedness and diaspora while also evaluating the historical, material and familial consequences which follow “events” like migration and displacement specifically within and from east central Europe. The region between Salzburg, St. Petersburg and Sarajevo serves as a rich laboratory for these topics especially during the 19th and 20th centuries when wars, pogroms, economic crises and familial networks propelled millions of men, women and children from this region to leave their “home towns” for other destinations (often large cities) within the region or faraway homes elsewhere. “Uprootings” and “diasporas” that will be considered include: the “great depature” towards the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries; workers’ movement towards cities like Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Warsaw; resettlements after pogroms and revolution; the great deracination driven by the Great War; the even greater deracination during and after the Second World War and the Holocaust; population transfers attached to the so-called “ethnic revolution” of the 1940s, political exiles and migrations during the Cold War; as well as more contemporary displacements like those unleashed by climate change across the last generation, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Syrian conflict in the 2010s which deeply impacted east central Europe and the (current) war between Ukraine and Russia. We will pay special attention to the “care” (birth-care, child-care, sick care, elder care and death care) dimension of the uprooted experience, especially as it relates to young and expanding families.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • read about and discuss with colleagues “rootedness,” “uprootedness” and “diaspora” and how migration propells change across historical time.

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the late modern history of east central Europe and how displacement and migration impacts the telling of this region’s history and present

  • describe the actual experience of migration and displacement from the vantage point of those who experienced it/are experiencing it

  • learn how to read a historical “document” (be it a poem, a building, a painting, a film or a material artifact) carefully and critically, and to present a clearly-argued and well-supported interpretation of its significance in both written and oral forms. Beyond mastering a body of factual information, in other words, you should be able to say something about these facts, to ask and answer the “so what?” question.

  • write and present about displacement, migration and the broader history of east central Europe


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars, using a mix of short lectures, group discussions (depending on the size of the class) and student presentations. During the course of the seminar, students are expected to participate consistently in seminar discussion by presenting and defending their ideas.

Assessment Method

  • Participation 15%

  • Presentations 15%

  • Book review 30%

  • Final research paper 40%

Reading list

See the course syllabus for the 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. Sarah Cramsey,