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Exploring Archival Sources


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA Urban Studies programme.


Exploring Archival Sources is an introduction to historical research methods for Urban Studies. Students learn to (1) search for and use (historical) archival sources, (2) to formulate research questions on urban issues in relation to these sources, and to (3) apply source criticism.

The city is not just a contemporary societal space, it is a historical space as well. The city mirrors past societies, it is the locus of documentation and artifacts of years, decades, centuries and sometimes millennia of history. A contextual understanding of cities and their characteristics requires considering the city’s past. At the same time, a city is the showcase of historical information, that is not only visible in the streets, but also stowed away in libraries, museums and archives.

As a student of Urban studies – and later as a professional working in an urban setting – you are constantly using and referring historical sources. This course aims to provide the tools and methods for historical research and data collection. On the one hand the course offers an introduction to historical criticism, on the other hand we will explore the strengths and weaknesses for our understanding of historical sources like policy documents, buildings, maps, accounts, charters or paintings. Students will acquire skills in working with several types of data sources. They will practice the selection of potential sources and sharpen their criticism with regard to use and processing. The course will revolve around a research focus relevant for current urban studies debates and linked to selected core themes of the Urban studies BA. The focus will be announced in the first class. A visit to the archives is part of the course.

Course objectives

General learning outcomes

See tab Additional information for the overview of the programme's general learning outcomes. In the assessment methods below is outlined which general learning outcome will be tested through which method.

Course objectives, pertaining to this course

The student is able to:

  • 1) Identify key questions and topics regarding historical methods and sources in relation the field of Urban Studies. These questions relate to: sources and evidence, credit and acknowledgement, narrative and explanation, and the relevance of history to Urban Studies.

  • 2) Summarize and reproduce the most important questions and topics on historical methods and sources as addressed in the work group and literature.

  • 3) Classify and recognize key concepts in historical methods and sources as formulated in the course literature and in the work groups.

  • 4) Prepare and hold a coherent presentation on historical methods and sources. In this short presentation you will coherently show your understanding of the various sources and evidence, credit and acknowledgement of sources, narrative and explanation, and the the relevance of historical methods and sources to Urban Studies.

  • 5) Discuss and analyze the use of historical methods and sources in Urban Studies. In the course meetings the student will discuss the literature, give feedback to other students on their presentations, and analyze the methods and sources.

  • 6) Understand specific challenges of doing archival research in the digital age.

  • 7) Apply the above mentioned historical methods and sources in Urban Studies.

  • 8) Learn to give constructive feedback and work collaboratively

  • 9) Learn to document research processes for different audiences and to deal with set-backs in the research process

  • 10) Plan and schedule his/her study: organize and use relatively large amounts of information.


The timetable is available on the Urban Studies website

Mode of instruction

  • Work group (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is unable to attend a workgroup, they should inform the lecturer in advance, providing a valid reason for absence. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If they are absent from a workgroup without a valid reason, they can be excluded from the final exam in the course.

  • Excursion

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC equals 28 hours), which equals 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending work groups: 24

  • Completing weekly assignment(s), preparing for classes and exams: 36

  • Event responses: 10

  • Preparing in-class presentation 15

  • Peer-Review: 10

  • Final report: 45

Assessment method


  • Active participation in class
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 1, 4-6, 8, 10-15, 17-19, 21, 23-25
    -measured course specific objectives: 5-8, 10

  • Assessment 1: 2* 300-400 word event or event responses
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 1, 6, 7, 11 - 13, 17, 18
    -measured course specific objectives: 1-4, 7-10

  • Assessment 2: 15 - 20 minute in-class presentation (topic assigned during first class) and leading in-class discussion
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 4, 6, 10-11, 13-14, 18-21, 23-26
    -measured course specific objectives: 4, 8, 10

  • Assessment 3: Peer-review exercises
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 15, 17, 21, 23
    -measured course specific objectives: 6, 8

  • Final assessment: Research report
    -measured programme's general learning outcomes: 1, 4-6, 8, 10-11, 13-15, 18-21, 24, 26
    -measured course specific objectives: 1-4, 7-10


Partial grade Weighing
Active in class participation 5
Assessment 1 12
Assessment 2 23
Assessment 3 10
Final report 50

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who have been active participants in class and submitted all required assessments on time, but scored an overall insuffient mark, are entitled to resit the assessment that was insufficient (not applicable for in class participation). For the resit, the students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the essays and/or final paper. The deadline for resubmission is to be consulted with the lecturer.

Faculty regulations concerning participation in resits are listed in article 4.1 of the Faculty Course and Examination Regulations.

Inspection and feedback

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


Blackboard will be used for:

  • The time schedule of the course

  • The reading list

  • Information about historical sources

  • Information about the assessments

  • Delivery of the assessments

  • Announcements

  • All other informationregarding the course

Reading list

The course will use a number of different open-source articles or book chapters that can be found and consulted as hard-copies or e-books via the library. Readings will be listed in a syllabus to be published on blackboard before the start of the course. Students should be prepared to locate assigned readings independently and collaborate if only a limited number of a given book is available in the university library (in the case of this course the ability to do so is considered a crucial skill: locating and getting access to relevant (re)sources).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr F Meissner