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Town and Garrison in 19th Century Europe


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


In the 19th century many European cities housed a large garrison: military personnel belonging to the national amy. These soldiers, both professionals and conscripts, often made up a substantial percentage of the total population. In other words: in the 19th century a strong military presence was a very common and dominant aspect of city life, often accentuated by the fact that many towns were still surrounded by huge fortifications. The complex relationship between the garrison and the civilian inhabitants, living together in a confined urban space, is the topic of this research seminar.

We will tackle this topic by focusing on a clear – but not uncomplicated – research question: how did the civilian authorities and the towndwellers in general appreciate this military presence within their community. Did they consider these soldiers as a burden or as a benefit? Or as a bit of both? In order to provide valid answers we will study all aspects of this civil-military relationship: political, economic, social and cultural. Soldiers could be a real nuisance, especially when drunk, but they could also play a key role in maintaining public order.
The garrison, with its purchasing power, could give a boost to the local economy, but it also attracted problematic activities such as prostitution. There is ambivalence everywhere, so its seems.

We will take the – primarily non-Dutch – secondary literature on this subject as our starting point, including some theoretical concepts and historiographical debates at te crossraods of military and urban history. With the use of these concepts, we will carry out research on (aspects of) the civil-military relationship in a number of Dutch towns, including Leiden, Den Haag, Amsterdam, Haarlem and Gouda, using an array of primary sources.
During our research we will meet many methodological challenges: what kind of sources can help us provide valid and valuable answers to our questions. What kind of archives can be of help to us? How useful are newspapers? Can egodocuments be of any use to us? For students who have an insufficient command of the Dutch language, it will be possible to focus on a (number of) foreign, preferably European, town(s). Each student will write a paper dealing with a specific town, based on a research question that fits into our overall research question, that will serve as the framework for this seminar. Students taking part in this seminar will be like pioneers, for not much research has so far been done in this field, especially in the Netherlands. In many urban histories soldiers are curiously invisible. We will give them back their place in 19th century urban society.

Course objectives

General learning objectives
The student has acquired:

    1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
    1. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
    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 Political Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;
    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    • in the specialisation Political Culture and National Identities: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar
The student will develop:

    1. Knowledge and understanding of the (international) historiography on urban history and military history, especially the so-called ‘war and society’ approach.
    • Knowledge and understanding of the key concepts of military socicology, pertaining to the field of civil-military relations.
    1. Knowledge of the workings of 19th century local government and the way public debate is organized and carried out at the local level.
    1. The skill to independently formulate an academically relevant research question within the framework of this research seminar.
    • The skills to independently select, study and analyse a wide array of sources, particularly archival sources, newspapers and egodocuments.
    • The skills to present results of research, both orally and in writing, and to comment critically on the research findings of co-students.
    1. (ResMA only) The ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources.
    • The ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates.
    • Knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialization.


See Timetable and deadlines History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

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

  • Class attendance: 26 hours.

  • Reading assignments (including one oral presentation): 74 hours.

  • Researching and writing a paper (including one oral presentation): 180 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-7, 10-15

  • Assignments and oral presentations
    Measured learning objectives: 7-9

  • Classparticipation
    Measured learning objectives: 8-9

Written paper: 70%.
Assignments and oral presentations: 20%.
Class participation: 10%

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.

Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline

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


Blackboard is used in this course, for literature, powerpoint presentations and discussion.

Reading list

  • To be announced


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


dhr. Prof.dr. B. Schoenmaker