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Medieval peoples and the birth of nations


Admission requirements

Relevant BA degree


If ‘nation’ is an ambiguous concept that connotes to both ‘people’ and ‘polity’ – to both ethnic and political community – then the Middle Ages could well be presented as the cradle of nationhood in Europe. Somewhere between 500 and 1500 out of peoples nations were born. This turbulent and complex, but extremely fascinating process has been much debated over the last decades. Our seminar will broach the subject thematically, around key concepts such as migration and territorialisation, ethnic personality of law, (ethnic and national) identity construction, national mythologies, ethnicity and racism, nationhood versus universalism, and nationalism versus regional autonomy.

Course objectives

  • to get thoroughly acquainted with the historical debate on medieval and early-modern ethnicity and (proto-)nationalism;

  • to discuss theoretical approaches to the theme;

  • to develop and carry out a small research project on a well-defined subject, based on primary source texts;

  • to report on research findings orally (by reading a paper) and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of historical scholarship.


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

Research seminar

Assessment method

  • Literature report & development of argumentation (20% final mark)

  • Paper (read)(30% final mark)

  • Final paper (written; ca. 7,500 words)(50% final mark)


Will be used for internal communication and the spread of additional reading and/or source material

Reading list

Obligatory (entry test on this book in week1):

  • Adrian Hastings, The construction of nationhood. Ethnicity, religion and nationalism (Cambridge etc. 1997)(or later printing).

Further recommended (to be discussed in class):

  • Siân Jones, The archaeology of ethnicity. Constructing identities in the past and present (London/New York 1997).

  • Patrick J. Geary, The myth of nations. The medieval origins of Europe (Princeton 2002).

  • Anthony D. Smith, The nation in history. Historiographical debates about ethnicity and nationalism (Oxford 2000).


See enrolment-procedure

Contact information

Prof. dr. P.C.M. Hoppenbrouwers


Language of instruction is English, unless the class is attended only by Dutch students