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Current debates in medieval and early modern history II


Admission requirements



In this course we will be examining current debates in the history of medieval and early modern Europe. The aim of the literature seminars is both to acquaint you with historiographical developments and to let you think about the production of historical knowledge itself. We will therefore not just be charting how historical debates develop, but crucially also investigate why they do so.
The course is taught twice a year and only runs for seven weeks. In these seven weeks, two topics will be discussed – see the description below for the topics on offer. Each student studies two topics over a period of six weeks.

Power politics and diplomacy. New approaches in the history of Western Diplomacy
Part I, taught by dhr. Dr. L.H.J. Sicking
Semester II weeks 1-3:

One of the oldest fields in the discipline of history is the study of diplomacy. It is also often considered to be one of the most old-fashioned, conservative and Eurocentric, isolated from other areas of investigation and not susceptible to the theoretical and methodological innovations that have transformed almost other sector of the profession. These criticisms are only in part true. In the last decades diplomatic history has been very much influenced by other disciplines, especially the study of politics and anthropology. This course aims to analyse the developments in the historiography of medieval and early modern diplomacy since 1950. Special attention will be paid to new initiatives to innovate the study of the practice of diplomacy, its evolution, theory and administration.

Gender in early modern Europe
Part II, taught by mw. Dr. F. Rosu
Semester II, weeks 5-7

Women’s and, more recently, gender studies have greatly developed in the last few decades. They shed new light on medieval and early modern Europe, sometimes questioning established notions such as ‘the Renaissance’ and revisiting our understanding of power and identity—and their relationship to gender and sexuality—in these periods.

In our meetings, we will explore the following themes:
a) the nature and relevance of femininity and masculinity ideals in pre-modern (Western) Europe;
b) the main scholarly debates related to these aspects of European history; and
c) the more recent methodological and theoretical implications of researching and writing gender history.

The aim of the literature seminars is both to acquaint you with important historiographical developments in the area of premodern European history and to let you think about the production of historical knowledge itself. We will therefore not just be charting how historical debates develop, but crucially also investigate why they do so.

You will learn how historians start to ask new questions, not only under the influence of the new insights of their colleagues, but also in response to current social and political issues, or developments in adjacent disciplines.

By being aware of this, you can approach existing literature with a view to identifying evolving agenda’s and possible new steps in historical debate – and that will come in useful when starting work on your dissertation.

For ResMA students an additional course aim is to develop your knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and its position vis a vis other disciplines.


Timetable History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total: 280 hours

  • Seminars (2 hours per week during 6 weeks), 12 hours.

  • Study of compulsory literature, 80 hours.

  • Preparation oral presentation, 48 hours.

  • Writing of essay/review article, 120 hours.

Assessment method

In each part of the course, the first two weeks are devoted to a discussion of texts we are reading collectively. In week 3 you will give a presentation on a book that you have studied individually, with a view to relating it to the debate under discussion. You will choose this book from a list that will be made available. You will also write a review article on this book.

We will test your understanding of two historical debates by three means: your participation in group discussion (for which you will be expected to offer propositions), two presentations, to be held in weeks 3 and 7, and the writing of two review essays of 3500 words each.

In the review essays you will not only be expected to demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter of your book, but also locate it in the wider historical debate, reflect on the way this has developed and why, and explore possible future directions of research. Research Master students will study two books written by authors working in different disciplinary traditions, and also focus their review on the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research.

Assessment and grading method (in percentages):.

  • Participation in discussion: 25% final mark.

  • (Oral) Presentation short papers: 25% final mark.

  • Review articles: 50% final mark

The final grade for the course is established by determination of the weighted average combined with the additional requirement that the two review essays have to be marked 6 or higher for students to pass.


Blackboard is used for:

  • Circulate information

  • Communication

Reading list

Power politics and diplomacy. New approaches in the history of Western Diplomacy

First session:

  • Anderson, M.S., The rise of modern diplomacy, 1450-1919 (Londen 1993 of latere edities). Introduction and the chapters 1 and 2 (1-102).

  • Black, J., A history of diplomacy (London 2010)7-42.

  • Ebben, M, and Louis Sicking, Nieuwe diplomatieke geschiedenis van de premoderne tijd. Een inleiding’, Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis 127 nr 4 (2014) 541-552 (Digitally available via UB Leiden)

  • J. Watkins, ‘Toward a new diplomatic history of medieval and early modern Europe’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38: 1 (2008) 1-14. (Digitally available via UB Leiden)

Second session:

  • Marquez, P., Urban diplomacy: Toulouse and its neighbors in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 33 (2002) 87-99.

  • Morieux, R., ‘Diplomacy from below and belonging: fishermen and cross-channel relations in the eighteenth century’, Past and Present, 202 (2009) 83- 125. (Digitally available via UB Leiden)

  • Behrmann, Th., ‘Verhaltensformen zwischen Herrschern und Hansestädten. Beobachtungen zu den anglo-hansischen und dänisch-hansischen Beziehungen’, Hansische Studien XIII (2002) 77-96.

  • Thomson, E., ‘For a comparative history of early modern diplomacy. Commerce and French and Swedish emissarial cultures during the early 17th century’, Scandinavian Journal of History 31:2 (2006) 151-172. (Digitally available via UB Leiden)

Third session:


via uSis


More information with the course coordinator mw. Prof. dr. J.S. Pollmann


If only native speakers of Dutch participate, the course may be taught in Dutch.