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Colonial Citizenship and Empire in Asia, 1780-1900


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialisation the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


The Atlantic revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century laid the conceptual foundations for modern national state building in Europe and in the colonial empires. Central to the revolutionary (enlightened) ideals was the language and promise of equality and citizenship rights. However, these ideals proved to be ‘Janus-faced’ since the practice of exercising political rights coincided primarily with the borders of the European nation-state and would often be denied to the people in the colonies.

Exclusion in the colonial empires was based on (a combination of) racial, cultural, religious and social-economic arguments. These arguments took different shapes and forms throughout the nineteenth century. In this literature seminar we will explore the different questions surrounding the shaping and reshaping of imperial citizenship in the modern colonial empires between 1780-1900. Using recent international literature, we will look at the different intellectual traditions that introduced inclusion and exclusion and hierarchical understandings of non-European peoples. Our focus is on colonial policies, practices and its connection to the intellectual debates. Together we will read, review, present and discuss multiple studies on these questions to locate the arguments and unfulfilled promises surrounding citizenship in the long nineteenth century.

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 subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation Colonial and Global History, focusing particularly on how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940).

  2. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  1. Will develop a thorough understanding on the complexities of citizenship debates, colonial hierachies and the Enlightenment for the nineteenth century.

  2. Will be able to use the historiography of the citizenship debates in the Dutch case as well as other Empires in Asia, to engage and develop their own standpoint in the current international debates on empire and colonialism.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

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, he is required to notify the lecturer 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 lecturer 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


From week 2 onwards all students write a weekly review of the literature. Additionally, from week 2 onwards, students will be presenting the literature of that week. The presentation should focus on the content of the work itself, its place in the historiography, its reception, etc.

*Weekly critical reviews (c.1000 words)

measured learning objectives: 1-9

*Class participation and presentation

measured learning objectives: 1-9


  • Weekly critical reviews: 75%

  • Presentaton: 25%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average, with the addititonal requirement that the average for the weekly reviews as well as the presentations must be sufficient.


Should the overall mark for the weekly reviews be unsatisfactory, the student will be able to revise after consultation with the instructor. 

Reading list

Please note that a full and updated weekly reading list will be published in the syllabus and on Brightspace before the start of the course.

  • Siep Stuurman, The Invention of Humanity. Equality and Cultural difference in World History (Cambridge and Londen, 2017).

  • Liesbeth Jacobson, 'The Eurasian Question'. The colonial position and postcolonial options of colonial mixed ancestry groups from British India, Dutch East Indies and French Indochina compared (Hilversum 2018).

  • Ulbe Bosma & Remco Raben, Being ‘Dutch’ in the Indies: a history of creolisation and empire 1500-1920 (Singapore 2008)

  • Frederick Cooper, Citizenship, inequality and difference. Historical Perspectives (Princeton 2018).

  • René Koekkoek, The Citizenship Experiment. Contesting the Limits of Civic Equality and Participation in the Age of Revolutions (Leiden 2019).


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.