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Protest:A Transnational Perspective


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


Those in power have been publicly challenged by the less powerful for as long as we can remember, but the shape these protests took have shifted dramatically over the centuries. Around 1800 an older repertoire of direct local protests (for instance mobs assailing the house of magistrates armed with pichforks) was supplemented with a new repertoire of more indirect protest forms, often aimed at national level (for instance mass petitions, protest rallies, protest marches, and strikes). Anti-slavery movements, and later Socialist movements and women’s rights movements pioneered a wide diversity of new forms of protest, including boycotting slave produce, praying in front of Parliament, throwing molotov cocktails, and going on hunger strikes.

Large-scale collective protests against social and political elites would remain a prominent feature of modern society and politics, and an important way for relative marginal groups (such as women, members of the working class, ethnic minorities and students) to make their voice heard and participate in politics. The legitimacy of these protests was often challenged by members of the elite. On the one hand this reinforced the notion that public protest was typical of progressive movements, but on the other hand more conservative, populist and far-right movements (from 19th century anti-catholic and anti-semitic movements, to recent movements such as the Tea Party and Pegida), have emulated and sometimes added to existing protest repertoires.

The development of popular protest has often been understood within a national framework. Recent research however, inspired by the ‘transnational turn’ in history, indicates that the development of new repertoires was essentially a transnational phenomenon. From the mid-20th century, for instance, a new wave of protest introduced and popularized new protest forms such as sit ins and civil disobedience that were inspired by Mahatma Ghandi’s protests against British colonial rule in India, adopted by the American Civil Rights’ movement, and subsequently by European social movements.

In this course we will investigate the history of protest in Europe and the United States from the Revolutionary Era in the late 18th century until the more recent surge in protests (Occupy, against Trump). We will not focus so much on the ideology and ideas of the protesters, but rather examine the development of protest forms and repertoires. We will examine these from a transnational perspective, using literature by both historians and historical sociologists. In addition to that, we will study the material culture of protest through a visit to the International Institute of Social History’s impressive collection of flags, banners, buttons, and t-shirts.

To start the course students will have to hand in a take-home exam (questions can be found on the blackboard site of the course, hand in during first class).

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3) The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) 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;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) 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;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 11) 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;

  • 12) 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:

  • 13) Has acquired basic knowledge and understanding of the history of protest in Europe and the United States since the late 18th century;

  • 14) Has acquired a thorough understanding of the concept of protest repertoire, its transnational nature, and its applicability to historical cases;

  • 15) Has acquired in depth knowledge of one particular case study;

  • 16) (ResMA only) Has acquired the ability to use a more complex corpus of sources in comparison to regular MA students; and/or the ability to set up and carry out original research which raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or and points to new directions for future research.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature and small assignments: 84 hours

  • Prepare and write research papers: 170 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 12-15 (ResMA also: 9 and 16)

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 13-14

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 15

  • Participation in class and online:
    measured learning objectives:1-2, 8, 11-14


Written paper: 70 %
Entry test: 10 %
Oral presentation: 10 %
Participation in class and online: 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 sufficent.


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

Exam review

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Communication

  • Discussion

  • Feedback

Reading list

Literature will be announced in class and on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Maartje Janse