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Introduction to the History of States and Nations in Europe


Admission requirements

This course is part of the MA History: Europaeum Programme.


This course provides a broad overview of the political history of Europe from about 1200 until the present. The focus will be on state formation, national identity construction, the role of empires, the nature of absolutism, the rise of nationalism, fascism and the welfare state. During the course we will discuss some of the major historiographical debates on these issues.


Please note that readings are quite substantial. Students are advised to start preparing well in advance.

Week 1: Dr. H.J. Storm
Introduction: Nations and Nationalism
In this first introductory meeting we will discuss some broad overviews of the origins and rise of nationalism. The classical studies by Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner gave shape to the modernist, constructivist paradigm, which argues that nations are social constructs, whereas nationalism is seen as a product of modernity. We will also review some recent developments in the field of nationalism studies, which build on, revise or undermine the still dominant interpretation of Anderson and Gellner.

Week 2: Prof. Dr. P. Buc
State and Nation in the Late Medieval Europe
It is a matter of definitions whether one can speak for Western and Central Europe before 1400 (alternatively, before ca. 1750 or even later) of nations and nationalism. This session will examine the
historiography and history of political groupings claiming a collective identity manifested through a common law and culture from the early Middle Ages to circa 1500, thus the spectrum ranging from ethnicity to nation.

Week 3: Dr. F. Roșu
Nation, State, and Empire in Early Modern Eastern Europe
As a category of historical analysis, Eastern Europe is an elusive concept. Scholars who study the development of nations and states in Europe often refer to the region as an exception to their models, rather than an integral part of the continental experience. In this meeting, we will explore East European history from three perspectives: 1) Overview: the main political and cultural differences between North-East Europe and South-East Europe in the early modern period; 2) Politics: models of state formation and the meaning of political sovereignty in the context of the Ottoman domination; and 3) Identity: the role of empires and composite monarchies in stifling or stimulating the growth of national identity in the region.

Week 4: Prof. dr. J.F.J. Duindam
Winners and losers in the early modern period? Grand narratives re-examined.
In our meeting, we will re-examine several closely related traditional views on state-formation. Did the state emerge as a result of the victory of princes over unruly barons? Zmora presents an entirely different picture. How does current research (Braddick, Wilson, Beik) view the classic examples of successful versus ‘failed’ state-building, France and the Holy Roman Empire? And finally, did levels of cultural coherence and political unification in these domains fit together neatly? On the whole, this meeting offers a comparative early modern commentary on the notions of state and nation.

Week 5: Dr. A Heyer
Party History
This session focuses on the topic of party history. It discusses possible ways of integrating conventional party history into recent cultural and less institutionalist approaches of political history. In particular, we will concentrate on the question of how such approaches could inspire new understanding of the mass party. For this purpose, we will also incorporate in our discussion the still influential social-science literature of the early twentieth century about the emergence of the mass party and its contribution to the functioning of democracy.

Week 6: Dr. J. Augusteijn
The welfare state in the 20th century
In this meeting we will deal with a number of questions relating to the new relationship which developed between the state and its citizens in the late nineteenth century and the consequent emergence of the Welfare State. These questions include: What is a Welfare State and how do you distinguish it from other types of states? What are the historical roots of this form of statehood? What is the value/accuracy of the typology suggested by Esping-Anderson? How did the welfare state develop in the UK? It will finish up with a brief discussion of the implication of the globalisation process for the relationship between state and citizen and the role of the nation in identity formation.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  5. (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:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following:
    -in the specialisation Europaeum: the European identity in comparative perspective; the development of European culture and society; international comparison; archival research; the perspective of one of the three different traditions – Leiden, Sorbonne and Oxford;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  1. Acquires a thorough knowledge of the history of states and nations in Europe.
  2. Becomes acquainted with recent historiographical debates on state-building, nationalism and national identity construction.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, the student 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, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Assignments (short reports – so-called Quarps – on required reading)
    measured learning objectives: 1-3, 5-8

  • Active participation in class
    measured learning objectives: 1-8


  • Assignments: 80%

  • Participation: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


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


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the written assignments are to be revised after consultation with the coordinator.

Inspection and feedback

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.

Reading list

Please start to prepare the readings well in advance, because particularly for week 1 the readings are quite substantial. The books and articles of the required reading will be available at the History section of the University Library (werkgroepenkast).

Week 1: Dr. H.J. Storm

  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (revised edition; London 1991, or later edition).

  • Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca 1983 or other edition).

  • Eric Storm, ‘A New Dawn in Nationalism Studies: Some Fresh Incentives to Overcome Methodological Nationalism’, European History Quarterly 48-1 (2018) 113-129.

Week 2: Prof. dr. P. Buc

  • Caspar Hirschi, The Origins of Nationalism: An Alternative History from Ancient Rome to Early Modern Germany (Cambridge 2012).

  • Rhys R. Davies, ‘The Peoples of Britain and Ireland 1100-1400’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 4 (1994), 1-20; 5 (1995), 1-20; (1996) 1-23; 7 (1997), 1-24.

Week 3: Dr. F. Roşu

  • Thomas Ertman, The Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1997), ch. 1 (Introduction) and ch. 6: page 1-34, 264-305.

  • Robert Bideleux and Ian Jeffries, A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change (London and New York, 1998), ch. 2 (“The Rise of the Ottoman Empire”), 68-81.

  • Azar Gat, Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism (Cambridge, 2012), 163-174, 185-193 (the Czech lands, Poland, Hungary, and South-East Europe).

  • Dariusz Kołodziejczyk, “What Is Inside and What Is Outside? Tributary States in Ottoman Politics,” in Gábor Kármán and Lovro Kunčević, eds., The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 2013), 421-432.

Week 4: Prof. dr. J.F.J. Duindam

  • Hillay Zmora, Monarchy, Aristocracy, And The State In Europe 1300-1800 (London; New York 2001).

  • Michael J. Braddick, ‘The embodiment of the state’ in: Idem, State formation in early modern England c. 1550-1700 (Cambridge 2000) 11-27.

  • Peter H. Wilson, ‘Still a Monstrosity? Some reflections on Early Modern German Statehood’ The Historical Journal (2006) 565-576.

  • William Beik, ‘The Absolutism of Louis XIV as Social Collaboration’, Past & Present, 188 (2005) 195-224.

Week 5: dr. A. Heyer

  • Vernon, James. Politics and the People: A Study in English Political Culture, c. 1815-1867. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

  • Berger, Stefan. ‘Herbert Morrison’s London Labour Party in the Interwar Years and the SPD: Problems of Transferring German Socialist Practices to Britain’. European Review of History: Revue Europeenne d’histoire 12, no. 2 (2005): 291–306

  • Ostrogorski, Mosei. ‘The Introduction of the Caucus into England’. Political Science Quarterly 8, no. 2 (1 June 1893): 287–316.

Week 6: Dr. J. Augusteijn

  • G. Esping-Anderson, The three worlds of welfare capitalism (Princeton University Press 1990) p. 1-138.

  • Rodney Lowe, ‘Torn between Europe and America. The British Welfare State from Beveridge to Blair’ in: Anneke Ribberink and Hans Righart eds., The Great, the New and the British (Utrecht 2000).

  • John Gelissen, Worlds of Welfare, Worlds of Consent? Public Opinion on the Welfare State (Tilburg 2001) Chapter 2, pp. 21-50.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.