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Thesis seminar: Democracy, Freedom, and Totalitarianism in Europe.


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies who have succesfully completed the second year elective course.


A bachelor’s thesis is the students’ largest and most important piece of work in the program. It is a research paper of substantial size, which to a considerable extent is the result of research and writing that is independently done. Collective supervision is provided in thesis seminars. The aim of the thesis seminar is to guide students through the process of designing a research question; collecting literature, sources, data, and other materials that are necessary for answering the question; bringing logic and persuasive order in the material and in the arguments supported by it; and designing appropriate research methods. In addition, attention is paid to the relevance of the students’ research to a wider academic or non-academic audience.

In Europe, the spectre of Totalitarianism has again been raised by the recent upheavals in Russia and Ukraine, and a new spotlight has been thrown on places such as Belarus and Turkey. Meanwhile, radical movements have increased in Greece, France, Spain, and other parts of the continent. This raises many questions as to how committed Europe is to democracy, and what that means on this continent. Is the notion of ‘freedom’ important to Europeans? Is this merely an American ‘branding’ of democratic processes? Is European understanding of democracy deeper and more sophisticated than that of the U.S., or does the EU actually represent, as some alledge, a creep towards anti-democratic bureaucratization? What do freedom and/or democratic processes mean on a continent where certain beliefs and clothing are outlawed in the name of national identity? What are the economic implications of these institutional and cultural questions, and how are they embedded in recent European history?

In this seminar, the focus will be on the question of modern governance in Europe; and it will be approached from all four of the BAIS methodologies: Culture, History, Politics, and Economics. The theme can be interpreted broadly: readings will partly be determined by the students’ priorities and interests. Thus, this seminar should provide a space for a good swathe of European area studies students to find and exercise their interests in modern Europe.

Course objectives

Based, and further elaborating on the knowledge and skills acquired, students will prove themselves to be able to:

  • work with research techniques that are current in the discipline(s) applied by them;

  • comprehend sophisticated academic debates;

  • report on their studies and research in good written English;

  • work and write under time-pressure, and deal with deadlines.

  • report on their studies and research in good spoken English;

  • participate in debates in an active, prepared and informed way, respecting other people’s convictions and emotions;

  • understand fundamental cultural differences and divisions.

The general academic skills covered by these aims are:

  • collect and select specialised literature using traditional and electronic methods and techniques;

  • analyse and evaluate this in terms of quality and reliability;

  • formulate a well-defined research problem based on this;

  • set up, under supervision, a study of limited size, taking into consideration the traditional and electronic methods and techniques relevant for the discipline;

  • formulate a reasoned conclusion on the basis of this;

  • explain research findings in a clear and well-argued way, both orally and in writing.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Eight seminar meetings of two hours, spread over semester.

Course Load

Attendance: 16 hrs.
Collective presentation: 12 hrs.
Individual presentation: 8 hrs.
Literature review: 80 hrs.
Relevance note: 12 hrs.
Total: 140 hrs.

Assessment method

Common presentation: 10 %
Individual presentation 1: 10%
Individual presentation 2: 20%
Literature review, chapter 1: 40%
Relevance note: 20%


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list



Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


In addition to the thesis seminars, there will be individual supervision. However, no thesis can be submitted that has not been written in the context of a thesis seminar.


Dr. J. Fynn-Paul, email