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The History of Everyday Life under Communism in East-Central Europe


Admission requirements

There are no specific admission requirements.


Over the last two decades research on the history of communist regimes in Eastern Europe has acquired a new direction: attention has shifted away from ‘high politics’ to the arenas of everyday life. This new research has revealed that the role of the private sphere in these societies was more important than had been previously assumed. It has also been demonstrated that the Iron Curtain might not have been as impenetrable as had been believed.

This seminar will discuss the trajectories of everyday life in societies in which the state sought to control citizens through surveillance and propaganda, while the citizens often devised imaginative ways to escape that control. The focus will be on the ‘satellite states’ of the Soviet Union, and especially Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the GDR and Yugoslavia. Topics to be discussed include various approaches and methodologies for the study of everyday life, the work sphere and domestic sphere, gender and sexuality, material culture and consumption, recreation, high culture and popular culture. Special attention will be given to the experiences of the young generation under communism, such as youth culture, counterculture and deviance.

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;
    • in the subspecialisation Political Debate also: political debates and debating styles in the Netherlands and abroad, both from a historical and a current perspective.
    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;
    • in the subspecialisation Political Debate also: historical and interdisciplinary analysis of political argumentation and rhetoric.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar
The student:

    1. Will become familiarized with the methodologies used for research into the the history everyday life;
    1. Will acquire knowledge about latest historiographical developments in the field of Central and Eastern European history;
    1. Will become familiar with conceptual frameworks used to analyze societal attitudes under authoritarian regimes;
    1. Will develop the ability to provide and handle constructive academic feedback.
    1. ResMA only – Will be able to pioneer new approaches or new research questions on the topic.


See Timetable and deadlines History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

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

  • Attendance : 28 hours

  • Preparation for class/reading literature: 76 hours

  • Preparing presentations : 16 hours

  • Research for paper: 80 hours

  • Writing paper: 80 hours

Assessment method

Assessment- Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 12-14 (ResMA also: 9, 16)

  • Two oral presentations
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7, 12-14

  • Assignment 1 (Participation)
    Measured learning objectives: 8, 10-11, 15

Written paper: 70 %
Oral presentations: 20 %
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 will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Sharing data

Reading list

  • The course will primarily rely on articles and book chapters that can be downloaded via the university library. The reading list will be distributed at the first meeting.


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Monika Baar