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History and Politics of Global Migration




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: a similarly-tagged 200/300-level class, or permission from the instructor. Transnational History is recommended.

Course description

Migration has always been a key feature of human society. Human movement across oceans and borders is responsible for cultural interactions that have led to both positive and negative social, political, economic and cultural change. In this course we will examine how migration has shaped the world. Most of our focus will be dedicated to what has occurred since the 1800s. We will start by looking at the various theories put forward to explain why people migrate and what effect this has for the sender communities, the receiver communities and for migrants themselves. We will then turn to more empirical examples of migration. Each week we will examine a different type of movement. One weekly seminar will be dedicated to an historical case study, while the other weekly seminar will focus on a more contemporary case study on a related type of movement.

Topics that will be covered include slavery, colonial and post-colonial migration, indentured migration, labour migration and asylum. Due to the global nature of the course, texts will include studies concerning Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, the Gulf states and Australasia. Towards the end of the course

Weekly overview

Week 1: Introduction and theory
Week 2: Slavery
Week 3: Colonialism
Week 4: Indentured labour
Week 5: Labour migration
Week 6: Asylum
Week 7: Migration policies
Week 8: Reading week

Course aims and learning outcomes

The main aims of the course are:

  • To provide students with an overview of how migration has affected society since the 1600s

  • To enable students to consider contemporary migration debates from an historical perspective

  • To expose students to the various disciplinary approaches that scholars use to examine migration

  • To provide students with a range of opportunities to develop their analytical skills

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Apply migration theory to the analysis of empirical case studies

  • Compare and contrast Europe’s experiences of migration with other continents

  • Independently formulate clear and well-argued opinions concerning migration

  • Analyse and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

Students will be expected to demonstrate these skills during seminar debates, presentations and written assignments.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught predominantly through seminars. There will also be one group excursion to Rotterdam. Tuesday seminars, which focus on historical migration, will feature a short overview (c. 20 minutes) from the instructor about the topic under analysis. Towards the end of the seminar, a short group presentation (c. 15 minutes) will consider the legacy of the topic today (for example, what is the legacy of slavery in Europe?). Friday seminars, which concentrate on more contemporary issues, will be predominantly student-led. A group presentation (20 minutes) will provide an overview of the assigned reading(s) and then these same students will lead the group discussions of the readings that will follow. Each seminar will also usually comprise a class discussion of an image, a video clip, a short text or a piece of music relating to a particular theme.


Each student will write three short individual assignments on the readings (500 words each), participate in two group presentations (one historical, one contemporary) and write an essay of approximately 3,000 words. Students are expected to play a very active role in seminars.

  • Actively engage in class discussions (10%)

  • Participate in two group presentations (20%)

  • Write three 500 word essays on the readings (30%)

  • Write a 3,000 word essay (40%)

Compulsory textbook

All compulsory reading will be available online via the library webpage or will be placed on Blackboard.

Contact information