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Migration to Chinese cities (1650-2015) in a global perspective


Admission requirements


Internal migration in China (and Taiwan), either to colonize sparsely populated lands as to cities has been studied extensively by area specialist, but this knowledge is rather isolated and has not reached main stream migration history, which focuses on Europe and (North) America. From a global comparative perspective, however, it is of ultimate importance to compare patterns and mechanisms in East Asia to migration in the Atlantic core regions. This makes it possible not only to look for structural similarities, but also for crucial differences. The Chinese family system, for example, is very different from the European one and this has important ramifications for who migrates, how and why. On the other hand the massive migration to booming Chinese towns in the last decades bears many similarities with the urbanization and modernization process in Europe in the 19th century. In this seminar students will break new ground and systematically harvest and analyze literature on Chinese migrations to cities and on the ensuing settlement process. The ultimate aim is to fit these patterns in more general typologies and theories of migration and see how global comparisons add to our insights and understanding of such processes. We will also look at what happens after migration and how these rural migrant fare in the city. Do they constitute their own ‘urban villages’ and rely on ‘strong ties’, or are they integrated in the core urban institutions? And what role does gender play? Important issue in this respect is how the Chinese state regulates migration and to what extent notions of citizenship are relevant.

Course objectives

After this course the student has a good overview of the most important (interdisciplinary) theoretical and conceptual approaches off the (global) history of migration and integration, and also of processes of in- and exclusion. Furthermore the student is able to make structured comparisons between various countries and different historical periods. The student learns how to reconstruct and analyze developments over time. Finally the student is able to express him/herself in writing in a systematic, coherent and meaningful way, combining secondary literature on specific cases and theoretical frameworks


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

  • Tutorial

  • Independent study of academic literature

Assessment method

Students will write a final essay for the last meeting on a topic of choice (for which they will find extra literature).
The final essay will include references to the literature read for the first part of the course. The final essay can be in English or Dutch, has to be 8000 words and has to include references.



Reading list

  • Patrick Manning, Migration in world history (New York Routledge 2005)

  • J. Lucassen and L. Lucassen (2009). “The mobility transition revisited, 1500-1900: what the case of Europe can offer to global history.” The Journal of Global History 4(4): 347-377.

  • J. Kok, (2010). The Family Factor in Migration Decisions. Migration History in World History. Multidisciplinary approaches. J. Lucassen, L. Lucassen and P. Manning. Leiden and Boston, Brill: 215-250.


See enrolment-procedure

Contact information

Prof. dr. Leo Lucassen