nl en

Board the Blockchain Train! Understanding and applying a revolutionary phenomenon


Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College. There are a few places available for regular students. The course is aimed at third-year Honours College students. Because of the nature of this course the goal is to have at least half of the participants with some coding experience.

We expect students who are keen on understanding the interaction between technology, society, law and economics.


Board the Blockchain Train! Understanding and applying from different perspectives a technological phenomenon more revolutionary than anything the world has seen.

Blockchain technology is already changing business, government, society, and it will impact your life! It’s not just the economy… Although blockchain took off with cryptocurrencies applications (Bitcoin; Ripple), it includes all kinds of applications, new blockchain business models that are likely to impact fundamentally the way we organize daily life. Blockchain is often associated with smart contracts – and we will examine what these are.

Blockchain minus the hype (in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other similar systems) simply boils down to automating a distributed ledger: a record of all transactions performed, stored and maintained in a distributed fashion, in such a way that the order and the content of the transactions cannot be modified once they are added to the ledger.

Blockchain offers the participants a possibility to interact without intermediaries or trusted third parties. It is not even necessary anymore to know or establish a form of trust (for instance an electronic signature) with the other actors in the blockchain. This feature has given the blockchain its aura of a “trust machine”. Add to this the possibility to run self-executing contracts in a distributed fashion on the blockchain without human intervention and without the possibility of failure, and the almost endless applications come into sight: from decentralized financial systems (with the possibility to wire money without a traditional bank facilitating the financial transfer) to blockchain music networks that automatically keep track of the ownership rights; from royalty distribution to running entire organisations on the blockchain without people being able to frustrate execution of rules agreed upon at incorporation. And many other cases are being explored.

Because of the innovative trust protocol, enforcing and recording irreversible transactions become easier than ever, transaction uncertainty decreases to an absolute minimum, and cooperation without first establishing trust becomes possible.

Course objectives

A. Knowledge
Objective 1: With the help of different interactive course methods, the students will investigate and obtain active knowledge of an innovative technology from a technological/historical, philosophical, economic and legal perspective. How does Blockchain function, what are the pitfalls, what does it mean for society and does it require regulation?

Objective 2: The students should gain specific knowledge on: (i) The philosophical and ethic foundations, (ii) The blockchain technology, and (iii) The private and administrative law aspects, (iv) The trust and security aspects (v) The business aspects.

B. Skills
Objective 1: The students will learn to bring theory and practice of this phenomenon together. To understand both chances and challenges of blockchain technology, it is crucial to experience how it works in practice. During this course, we will therefore visit blockchain pioneers in different domains: ranging from start-ups, to tech companies and government institutions.

Objective 2: enhancing debating techniques by applying it to a very complex phenomenon. Crossing frontiers from their respective study backgrounds: students are expected to attend and interact in this course with an open, critical demeanour and to develop a genuine interest in what tech and innovation means for business, government and society.

C. Knowledge/skills by the end of the course
At the end of this course, students will be able to understand what the blockchain is and how it may change business, government, society and their lives. Students will also be able to reflect critically upon the blockchain’s opportunities and pitfalls from an interdisciplinary point of view (historical, philosophical, tech, economic and legal).


Thursday evenings – 10 lectures/seminars/classes of 3 hours in 2018.

4 October 17.15-20.30
11 October 17.15-20.30
18 October 17.15-20.30 [exam period (at the Faculty of Law): no classes]
8 November 17.15-20.30
15 November 17.15-20.30
22 November 17.15-20.30
29 November 17.15-20.30
6 December 17.15-20.30
13 December 17.15-20.30
20 December 17.15-20.30

Monday, 14 January 2019 Students to hand in final essay.


Kamerlingh Onnes Building, WijnhavenThe Hague, and on location.

4 October 17.15-20.30: Leiden University The Hague (opposite TNO) room 303 & TNO The Hague New Babylon, Anna van Burenplein 1.

11 October 17.15-20.30: Kamerlingh Onnes Building room B026.

18 October 17.15-20.30: Kamerlingh Onnes Building room B026.

8 November 17.15-20.30: Wijhaven 354

15 November 17.15-20.30 : TBA IBM Amsterdam, Johan Huizingalaan 765 or Wijnhaven 354

22 November 17.15-20.30 : Deloitte, The Edge, Gustav Mahlerlaan 2970, 1081 LA Amsterdam.

29 November 17.15-20.30 : Excursion

6 December 17.15-20.30 : Wijhaven room 219

13 December 17.15-20.30 : Nijenrode

20 December 17.15-20.30 : Wijnhaven room 354


Programme is provisional.

  1. 4 October 2018: Introductory notes and a lecture by specialist dr. ir. Oskar van Deventer at TNO on what blockchain is, what its applications are, why it is a global phenomenon that will disrupt society more – and specifically our lives – what some of the technological notions are, and a Q&A with the students to determine which disciplines are relevant to analyse blockchain.

Time/Location: 17.15 – until 18.00 Introduction blockchain: Georgios Stathis, Leiden University The Hague room 303 – opposite TNO.18.00 – 20.00 TNO The Hague, What is block Oskar van Deventer. New Babylon, Anna van Burenplein 1.

  1. 11 October 2018: An interactive seminar from a technology-philosophical perspective. Dr. Esther Keymolen will explore blockchain’s promise to enable “trustless transactions”. Is it possible that blockchain can replace trust and what does that mean for the rule of law? Following a theoretical analysis, the students will perform a role play to discuss this important question.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30, Kamerlingh Onnes Building. Esther Keymolen.

Dr. Esther Keymolen holds a MA (2008) and PhD (2016) in Philosophy, both from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She is specialized in the Philosophy of Technology and Philosophical Anthropology. She also holds a BA in Music (2004). Before starting her doctoral research in 2010, Esther worked at the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR). As a scientific staff member, she co-authored the book iGovernment and conducted research in the domain of digital youth care.

  1. 18 October 2018: An interactive seminar by Dr. Tycho de Graaf with a short history of law and regulation re. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), electronics identification methods – we explore and discuss the legal and economic aspects from internet tot blockchain. The students are to produce a reaction paper on what legal and economic domains are relevant for them. They must also reflect on whether blockchain fits in our current way of legal thinking and whether the law can be applied to regulate possible adverse effects of the technology (“code is law” and “decentralised trustless transactions”). The mentors will divide the students in groups so that they can address various concerns. Introduce assignment for the students to prepare a brief bullet point presentation which is the basis for their end-paper – describe what notions you are concerned with, what will be the basis for your paper (see course day 5.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30, Kamerlingh Onnes Building. Tycho de Graaf.

Tycho de Graaf is an assistant professor in private law since August 1, 2017. Moreover, he has been assistant professor at eLaw - Center for Law and Digital Technologies since August 1, 2006.

  1. 8 November 2018; A seminar/excursion: do civil law notions stand in blockchain? Katja van Kranenburg, Tycho de Graaf and Olivier Rikken will present a case study and will discuss both corporate and private legal principles in the context of blockchain. What is the role of blockchain in legal applications;; from a contract perspective we will look at expression of will or consent, entering into an agreement, corrections of errors, termination The students will be asked to comment on a the case study.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30 17.15-20.30, Kamerlingh Onnes Building. Katja van Kranenburg, Olivier Rikken, Tycho de Graaf.

  1. 15 November 2018; An excursion where we will experience the technology that supports blockchain and smart contracts – programming code (tech company), Vincent Visser at IBM. Corporate: who are the acting entities, can they be considered as legal corporations? A brief presentation during course day 5, 5 minutes per student.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30 TBA.

  1. 22 November 2018; A seminar/excursion: hosted by Jacob Boersma at Deloitte/Cybersecurity Academy we will discuss all security aspects surrounding the trust protocol, the protection of personal data, and infrastructure aspects and we encourage the students to obtain a deeper understanding of the role that advisers like Deloitte can play.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30 at Deloitte, The Edge, Gustav Mahlerlaan 2970, 1081 LA Amsterdam, Jacob Boersma.

  1. 29 November 2018: A lecture/excursion: we will visit a government organisation or regulatory agency and hear from them what blockchain means for the global and the Netherlands economy and if and how blockchain should/could be regulated. Half of the seminar will be presented by Sharon Sloof from PwC. Sharon will talk about This follows up on course day 3, and the students are to produce a position paper as to what needs to be regulated better or differently.

Time/Location 17.15-20.30; Location TBC. Sharon Sloof, PWC.

  1. 6 December 2018: A seminar where we will discuss the use of blockchain in the domain of sustainability and fair trade with new professor Valerie Frissen (previously SIDN). Can blockchain really improve transparency and accountability of all actors involved? We will also have a Q&A on your essay topics.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30, Wijhaven room 219. Valerie Frissen.

Valerie Frissen is a professor occupying an endowed chair in ICT and Social change at eLaw, Leiden. Prior to that she ws a professor at Erasmus School of Philosophy. She is also managing director of the SIDN Fund, member of the supervisory board of NPO and the Dutch Creative Council and member of the advisory board of HIVOS.

  1. 13 December 2018: An interactive seminar with business – Nijenrode and a fintech company, where we will listen and then debate at what blockchain means for their business both from a strategic, practical and legal perspective. Were our assumptions from the previous sessions tenable.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30, (Location TBC).

  1. 20 December: A final interactive town hall meeting (facilitated by Simone van der Hof, Esther Keymolen, Tycho de Graaf, Bart Custers and Serge Gijrath) which turns into a joint lively debate on all various aspects discussed in the previous sessions.

Time/Location: 17.15-20.30, (Location TBC).

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures: 2 lectures of 3 hours

  • Seminars: 4 seminars of 3 hours

  • Excursion: 4 seminar-excursions of 3 hours

  • Literature reading & practical work: 6 hours p/week /60 hours

  • Assignments & final essay: 50 hours

Assessment method

  • 40% Presentation during a symposium or a special session;

  • 60% A final case-application paper of 3000 words.

Please note: Attendance is compulsory.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

  • Rainer Böhme, Nicolas Christin, Benjamin Edelman, and Tyler Moore, Bitcoin: Economics, Technology, and Governance, Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 29, Number 2—Spring 2015— pages 213–238 (PDF).

  • John Ream, Yang Chu, and David Schatsky, Deloitte University Press 2018, Smart contracts use cases in industry, Smart Contracts: 12 Use Cases for Business & Beyond – A Technology, Legal & Regulatory Introduction — Foreword by Nick Szabo December 2016; (PDF).

  • Aaron Wright & Primavera De Filippi, “Decentralized blockchain technology and the rise of lex cryptographia, (PDF:

  • Leon Zhao, Shaokun Fan, Jiaqi Yan, International Conference on Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective, EGOVIS 2016: Electronic Government pp. 253-264 (PDF).

  • Svein Ølnes, Beyond Bitcoin Enabling Smart Government Using Blockchain Technology, Springer 2016 (PDF)

  • Norton Rose Fulbright, Can smart contracts be legally binding contracts? 2016, White Paper (PDF).


  • Since blockchain literature is in its infancy and much of the research is in progress as of May 2018, more literature will be added about at least one month prior to start of course.

** In case only Dutch students participate, literature in Dutch will be added.


Enrolling in this course is possible from August 21st until September 6th 23:59 through the Honours Academy, via this link.


Prof. mr. dr. Serge Gijrath