nl en

Archives, heritage formation and (post-)colonial studies


Admission requirements

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


The MA Archival Studies is in transformation towards (from the academic year 2020-21) an
MA specialization, situated within Colonial and Global History, entitled ‘Heritage and Postcolonial studies’. It offers students the unique opportunity of a training in critical approaches towards archival politics and heritage practices in colonial and postcolonial situations, beyond – and including – notions and problems of ‘the’ colonial archive.

In this literature seminar we will study theories and debates on the politics and histories of archiving and heritage formation, in general, and with special attention to their colonial and postcolonial dimensions. Insights from this literature seminar will remain relevant for those students who whish to be trained as experts in the field of archival or heritage politics.

We will explore debates on politics and processes of heritage formation, and the relationship between civilian’s associations, institutions and the archives left behind, in order to gain insight into the multiple hierarchies of knowledge, and mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, generated by archival and heritage formation at multiple locations, within and beyond the frameworks of (post-)colonial state formation.

You will get familiarized with the recent debates about how to manage archives and heritage in postcolonial times, and on how to make these accessible and open up for inclusive and transnational historical research regarding colonial and postcolonial history.

The seminar also addresses the problems of archiving in response to digitization, and within the framework of information science. What does the digitization era imply for the compilation, management, politics, and uses of archives?

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

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

  • 2)The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 3) 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;

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

  • 5) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  • 6) 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 Archival Studies: archiving and heritage formation in a colonial context; insight into the significance of archiving processes for the way in which a society deals with its documentation heritage in general and its historical practice in particular; disclosure, including digital disclosure, of archives as part of the broader heritage sector.

  • 7) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student has acquired:

  • 8) the ability to work with a broad and mobile notion of knowledge, archives and heritage;

  • 9) the ability to analyse, compare and relate forms of knowledge, and processes of heritage formation including archives at multiple locations;

  • 10) the ability to recognize, question, understand the role of multiple power relations and changing hierarchies, in knowledge production, and in the makings and uses of sites of heritage including archives.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, she or he is required to notify the tutor beforehand. The tutor will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the tutor will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, she or he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 14 hrs

  • Preparation tutorials: 4 hrs

  • Study of compulsory literature: 220 hours

  • Assignment(s) and essay: 42 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly written assignments

  • Short presentation(s)

  • Participation in group discussion


  • Essay: first draft introduction and outline, deadline 14 October; final essay 6 November
    Measured learning objectives: 1-2, 4-6, 8-10

  • Assignment 1: Oral presentations
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4

  • Assignment 2: weekly written assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 4, 5


  • Essay: 40 %

  • Oral presentation: 25 %

  • Weekly assignments: 25 %

  • Participation: 10 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written essay 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:

  • Posting of the course scheme

  • Course announcements

  • Posting of weekly writing assignments at the discussion board, also as base for discussion

  • Posting of first drafts of essays + outline, also as base for discussion

Reading list

NB: Some of the literature prescribed below is still open for change; occasional changes will be announced at the beginning of the course.

Requisite reading, ca. 90-120 pages of literature every week, available at Leiden University Library. Some literature can be downloaded open access in the Library; other will be made available on reserved bookshelves at Leiden University, to be copied by students themselves.

Week 1, 9/9: (1 hour) Practical matters; readings; assignments

Week 2, 16/9: (1 hour) Introduction to the theme

Week 3, 23/9: Archival history and theory

  • T. Eastwood, ‘A contested realm: The Nature of Archives and the Orientation of Archival Science’, Currents pages 3-22

  • M. Duchein, ‘The history of European archives and the development of the archival profession in Europe’ in American Archivist 55 (1992) 14-25

  • T. Cook, ‘What is past is prologue: a history of archival ideas since 1898 and the future paradigm shift’, in Archivaria 43 (1997), 27-63

  • Jennifer Douglas, ‘Origins and beyond: The Ongoing Evolution of Archival Ideas about Provenance, Currents pages 25-52

  • Philip Mueller, 'Archives and History. Towards a history of 'the use of state archives' in the 19th century' in History of the Human Science (2013) 26, 4, 67-83

Week 4, 30/9: Colonial archives and postcolonial theories

  • Ranajit Guha, ‘The process of Counter-Insurgency’, in Nicholas B Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherrey B. Ortner eds. Culture, Power, history: A reader in contemporary social theory. Rineon: Princeton University Press [1983] 1994: 336-371. [34 pp.]

  • Ann Laura Stoler, ‘Colonial Archives and the arts of governance’, Archival Science 2 (2002) 87-109 [23 pp.]

  • Francis Gouda, Remco Raben, Henk Schulte Nordholt, Ann Laura Stoler, ‘Debate on Along the archival grain, BKI, 165:4 (2009) 551-567 [16 pp.]

  • Ricardo Roque and Kim A. Wagner, ‘Introduction: Engaging colonial knowledge’, in: Engaging *Colonial knowledge. Reading European archives in world history. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 1-32 [32 pp.]

  • Jordanna Bailkin, ‘Where did the empire go? Archives and Decolonization in Britain’, American Historical Review, June 2015, 884-899. [13 pp.]

Week 5, 7/10: The politics, violence and decolonizing of heritage formation

  • Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage. Routledge: London and New York, 2006. 1-43; 299-311. [48 pp.]

  • Lynn Meskell, ‘Transacting UNESCO World heritage: gifts and exchanges on a global stage’, Social Anthropology (2015) 23, 1: 3-21. [18 pp.]

  • Marieke Bloembergen and Martijn Eickhoff, ‘Decolonizing Borobudur: Moral engagements and the fear of loss. The Netherlands, Japan and (post-)colonial heritage politics in Indonesia’, in S. Legêne, B. Purwanto, H. Schulte Nordholt (eds), Sites, Bodies and Stories. A comparative approach to history and heritage in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. Singapore: NUS, 2015, 33-66. [33 pp.]

  • Patrick Daly and Tim Winter, ‘Heritage in Asia. Converging forces, conflicting values’, Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia (London; New York: Routledge, 2012), 1-35. [35 pp.]


Week 6, 14/10: Archives, society, justice and law

  • Eric Ketelaar, ‘Recordkeeping and Societal power’ in Sue McKemmish et al. (eds) Archives, recordkeeping in Society (Wagga-Wagga 2005) 277-298

  • David A. Wallace, ‘Archives and social justice’, Currents pages 271-298

  • Verne Harris, Archives and Justice. A south African Perspective (Chicago 2007), Chapter 17: 'Contesting remembering and forgetting: the archive of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission'.

  • David M. Anderson, ‘Mau Mau in the High Court and the ‘Lost’ British Empire Archives: colonial bureaucracy or bureaucratic bungle?’ in The journal of imperial and commonwealth history 39 (2011) 699- 716

  • Diana K. Wakimoto, ‘Archivist as activist: lessons from three queer community archives in California’, in Archival Science 4 pages 293-316

Week 7, 21-10: Appraisal

  • T. Eastwood, ‘Reflections on the goal of archival appraisal in democratic societies’ in Archivaria 54 (2002) 59-71

  • Kate Cumming and Anne Picot, 'Reinventing appraisal' in Archives and Manuscripts 42 (2014) 133-145

  • Fiorella Foscarini, ‘Archival Appraisal in four paradigms’, Currents pages 107-134

  • Rebecka Sheffield, ‘Community archives’, Currents pages 351-376

  • Charles Jeurgens, ‘The right to know: what, when and for how long: appraisal and selection in the information age’, in Wroclaw Review of Law, Administration and Economics, 01 December 2013, Vol.3(2), pages 6-20

Week 8: Archives in the digital era (introduction)

  • Jinfang Niu, 'Original Order in the digital world' in Archives and Manuscripts, 43(2015) nr. 1, 61-72

  • Roy Rosenzweig, ‘Scarcity or abundance? Preserving the past in a digital era’ in The American Historical Review 108 (2003), 3, 735-762

  • Glenn Dingwall, ‘Digital preservation: from possible to practical’, Currents pages 135-162

  • Gillian Oliver, ‘Managing records in Current recordkeeping’. Currents pages 83-106

  • Niels Brügger, ‘When the present web is later the past: web historiography, digital history and internet studies’ in: Historical Social Research 37 (2012), 4, 102-117

  • Charles Jeurgens, ‘The scent of the digital archive. Dilemmas with archives digitisation’ BMGN Low Countries Historical Review 128 nr 4 (2013) 30-54

Week 9, 28-10: Guest seminar at the National Archives. Backstage tour and a guest seminar on digital archiving.

DEADLINE FINAL ESSAY Wednesday 6 November 23h59


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


M. Bloembergen M.E. van de Kamp