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New Imperial and Global History? Current Debates and Approaches


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


In the field of Colonial and Global History different approaches and views exist on the way historical research should be conducted and history should be written. In this literature seminar several currents, approaches and topics which are part of current debates within colonial and global history will be discussed. One popular current is the ‘new imperial history’ in which emphasis is placed on the networks of goods, ideas and people, and in which more attention is paid to the agency of local people. This approach aims to depart from the ‘traditional’ writing of colonial and imperial history and reassess the relation between metropole and colony. Discussed to what extent the different approaches really differ that much from each other, to what extent they are radically different from previous forms of writing history. Another issue that will be discussed in this seminar is global history versus local history. We will discuss to what extent the approach of global history is irreconcilable with local, or even micro, history and what the strengths and weaknesses are.
The course literature consists of a selection of books representing different currents within the field of colonial and global history. At the same time, the diverse topics of the books will give insight into popular subjects and their debates in the discipline. Among them are networks, race & class, the great divergence, discipline & punishment. Each session a group of students will prepare and chair the discussion on that week’s topic based on background information they collected from journals and other sources.

Course objectives

General learning objectives
The student has acquired:

    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
    1. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
    1. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following:
    • in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalization (in particular during the period 1200-1940).
    1. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar
The student:

    1. Is able to reflect and comment on literature and historiographic approaches in different written forms, including a double review of literature;
    1. Is able to collect relevant information about debates on specific topics related to the course literature and work this into a comprehensive overview that serves as point of departure for the discussion in class.


See Timetable and deadlines History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours

  • Lectures (2 hours x 7 weeks): 14 hours

  • Literature: 232 hours

  • Preparation lecture/assignments: (2 hours x 7 weeks) 14 hours

  • Assignment Presentation: 8 hours

  • Assignment Review essay (2000 words): 12 hours

Assessment method


  • Review essay (review of two books, 2000 words)
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 (ResMA also: 6)

  • Assignment 1 (Presentation /chairing discussion)
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 (ResMA also: 6)

  • Assignment 2 (AQCI assignment)
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 2, 3, 5

  • Assignment 3 (brief review, ca. 800 words)
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 2, 3, 5

  • Assignment 4 (brief analysis of book in relation to historiography, ca. 500 words)
    Measured learning objectives: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 (ResMA also: 6)

Written paper: 60%
Oral presentation: 10%
Participation in class: 10%
Assignment 1: 5%
Assignment 2: 5%
Assignment 3: 5%
Assignment 4: 5%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient and all above mentioned assessments have to be fulfilled sufficiently.

Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.


Course information and course documents can be found on Blackboard. Students upload assignments on Blackboard and use the discussion board for assignments.

Reading list

Before the start of the course should be studied:

  • Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 2005).

  • Other titles will be announced later.


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


mw. E.P.M. Zwinkels MA