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Return Migration to Europe since the 1850s: Histories, Discourse and Research


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.


In 2000, geographer Russel King highlighted the overlooked significance of return migration, describing it as “the great unwritten chapter in the history of migration.” Despite its longstanding presence and documentation, historical research has lagged in addressing this phenomenon even though in Europe alone, examples of return movements are abundant: from the 19th and 20th centuries’ return from overseas after mass migrations, to the repatriation of war veterans, prisoners of war, and refugees during and after the World Wars, to the return of recruited migrant workers between the 1920s and 1980s, and the return of war refugees post-Yugoslav wars in the 1990s and 2000s. Historically, migration was often viewed as a one-way journey, focusing on uprooting and assimilation rather than the cyclic nature of return. Research over the past two decades reveals that many emigrants intended to return home eventually, with global return migration comprising 26–31% of movements between 1990 and 2015, and transition migration accounting for 9% in the same period. Returnees often faced challenges, returning without belongings or with compromised health, but many also brought back financial assets, new perspectives, and skills, influencing their home countries’ economies and societies. Nonetheless, they were not always welcomed; mistrust and societal tensions were common, as returnees were sometimes seen as political threats or economic burdens, or conversely, as hopeful harbingers of progress. The proposed seminar aims to delve into these aspects, emphasizing that the study of remigration is crucial for understanding the broader patterns of transnational, global, and transcultural migration.

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 subtrack as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following; in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. has acquired basic knowledge and understanding of the history (i.e. boundary issues/demarcations, ethnic majorities vs minorities; elite change) of modern Europe.
  2. has acquired a thorough understanding of how empires end and nation states begin.
  3. has acquired in depth knowledge of the history of ethnic minorities in Europe through a comparative lens.
  4. The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of this particular subject and history more generally. The ability to synthesize readings and write at a high academic level. (Etc.)


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend are 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, 9, 10, 13-16

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 9, 16

  • Active participation
    measured learning objectives: 4, 7, 9, 13-16


  • Written paper: 60 %

  • Oral presentation: 20 %

  • Active participation: 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

The required readings will be published on Brightspace.


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.