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The Urban Allure: Leisure and Consumption in the Modern Metropole, 1850-1950


Admission requirements

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


This course delves into the captivating world of urban leisure and consumption within the dynamic context of global metropoles from 1850 to 1950. Exploring the intersection of social, cultural and urban history, students will unravel the multifaceted layers of entertainment, desire, and consumer culture that shaped the urban landscape during this transformative century.

This course will start with the analysis of material and cultural changes in global metropoles. We will investigate for instance how parks evolved from simple recreational spaces to symbolic landscapes of leisure and social interaction, reflecting changing urban attitudes towards nature and public life; how the rise of department stores as temples of consumption revolutionized retail and reshaped urban spaces, while the advent of photography and cinema offered new means of representation and spectacle, capturing what was considered the ‘essence of modernity’. In exploring different urban spaces and reflections of cultural life, we will consider the histories of an array of social groups and classes, including minorities, migrants and the subjects of Western colonization.

This course covers historical debates surrounding urbanization, modernity, consumer culture and the modern self. Students will analyze differing interpretations of urban leisure and consumption, considering issues of class, gender, race, and power dynamics within urban spaces. By critically engaging with primary sources, secondary literature and visual materials, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the intricate dynamics between leisure, consumption, and urbanization, and how they continue to influence contemporary urban experiences.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  7. 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;
  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  9. 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;
  10. (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, focusing particularly on the following: in the specialisation Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence: the manner in which migrations (of people, goods and ideas) between and within states have led to shifts (in cohesion, ethnic composition, policies, imaging, culture, and power relations) in the period 1600-2000, with a focus on (urban) networks (within and across borders); when focusing on an economic subject, on the origin and outcomes of the Great Divergence, developments in political economy since ca 1600, increasing global interdependence throughout the centuries, and the development of global governance in the twentieth century.
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subtrack in question, with a particular focus on the following:
  • in the specialisation *Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence**, including the subtrack Governance of Migration and Diversity: the interdisciplinary approach (application of theories, models and methods from social sciences and economics, when relevant), the comparative perspective (diachronic and synchronic) and working with a large variety of primary sources.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

  1. Students have familiarized themselves with some key debates in the field of urban history, cultural history, leisure and consumption history, and urban institutions.
  2. Students have acquired the ability to employ an interdisciplinary approach (application of theories and methods from social sciences and/or cultural studies).
  3. Students have acquired the ability to work with a large variety of primary sources.
  4. ResMA only – Students have acquired the ability to interpret a complex corpus of (qualitative and quantitative) sources; the ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates.


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


  • Written paper (6500-7500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-14

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 8-13

  • Assignment 1 (Research proposal)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 13


  • Written paper: 60 %

  • Oral presentation and participation: 20%

  • Assignment 1: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


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 paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

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

Required readings will be announced through Brightpace


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.