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The History Master consists of the following specialisations:


Literature Seminar (10 EC)
Students commence their programme with a Literature Seminar, whether starting in September or February.

Research Seminar (10 EC)
Students take a Research Seminar within their specialisation in the first semester of their programme.

Research Workshop (5 EC)
Students take a Research Workshop within their specialisation in the first semester of their programme.

Academic Skills and Thesis Seminar (5 EC)
Students are required to take a thesis seminar. This seminar consists of a number of meetings in which students are given the opportunity to present their work and to comment on the work of others. The seminar aims at providing students with some additional support in the writing process as well as achieving further uniformity where practical matters are concerned.

Optional Courses (10 EC) Students follow one or two optional courses. All MA courses offered at level 400 or higher can be followed as optional course. These may comprise MA courses offered by Leiden University and those offered by other (foreign) universities. Alternatively, students can also opt for an internship. For more information about the different possibilities, see the specific MA Optional Courses page.

Thesis and exam (20 EC)
The Master’s Programme will be concluded by a MA-thesis. Students are guided in writing their thesis by thesis supervisors. Halfway through the first semester, the student commences with the thesis and has to ask a member of staff active in the field of his/her specialisation to act as their thesis supervisor. See the Overview of Staff for a possible supervisors. The thesis is written in the second semester.

Before graduation students sit for a final exam in which they defend their thesis and answer questions on additional literature.

Optional Courses

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Literature Seminars

Emperor in the Roman World 10
Global Intellectual History before Modernity: Challenge or Madness? 10
Archives, Heritage, and Postcolonial Studies 10
Navigating History: New Perspectives on Maritime History 10
Migration and Integration 10
Essential Readings in Economic History 10
Current Debates in Medieval and Early Modern History I 10
Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the present 10
Rome and the Barbarians of the North: Celts and Germans 10
Colonialism and the Representation of Society and State 10
Current Debates in Medieval and Early Modern History II 10

Research Seminars

The Ancient Silk Roads: Global Connectivity & Innovation 10
Sailing the Dutch Atlantic 10
Heritage formation and religion in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia and India 10
The Decolonization War in Indonesia, 1945-1950: Written and Oral Sources 10
Connecting Dreams: Europe in Africa, Africa in Europe 10
The Business of Empire: Colonial and Imperial Entrepreneurship, 1415-1974 10
You Are What You Eat: Gender, Class, Ethnicity and Food Culture 10
Deep Rivers: The great migrations in African-American History 10
Making sense of epidemics in Europe, 1500-1800 10
(Re)framing Past and Present in Narrative Sources from the Low Countries (c. 1250-c.1800) 10
The Rise of Banal Nationalism 10
Historians and Ideology: Images of the German Past between Reichsgründung and National Socialism 10
Politicians and Statesmen. Professionalization, Activism and Perception since the 18th Century 10
Democracy in America: The Public and the Private in U.S. Politics 10
The Fringes of Enlightenment: Colonialism and Society in Asia, 1780-1870 10
Science and Empire (1800-today) 10
The Slave Ship: Business, terror and resistance 10
Slavery in Europe’s Frontier Zones 1300-1800: Networks, Knowledge and Labour 10
The Russian Revolution Revisited 10
Do Elections Make Democracies? 10
The History of Everyday Life under Authoritarian Regimes 10

Additional information


The programme has the following objectives:
1) To enable students to acquire academic knowledge, understanding and skills, and train them in the use of scientific methods in the field of history;
2) To enable students to develop the following academic and professional skill:

  • Independent academic reasoning and conduct;

  • The ability to analyse complex problems;

  • Academic reporting.

4) To prepare students for an academic career and further education;
5) To prepare students for a career outside academia.


The Master programme in History (60 EC) offers you the chance to determine a study based on your own particular interests and ambitions. With several specialisations on offer – each containing a number of specific subjects – you will pay specific attention to the development of theories on historical processes, historiography and methodology of historical research.


  • Literature Seminar 10 EC

  • Research Seminars 20 EC

  • Optional Course 10 EC

  • Thesis, Thesis Seminar and Exam 20 EC

Language of instruction

The language of instruction and examination of the programme is English and Dutch. Students are expected to have an adequate command of the language of instruction of the programme.

Coordinator of Studies

Send an e-mail to

Career Preparation

Career Preparation in the MA History

The programme

The MA History in Leiden is an nationally and internationally renowned 1-year MA. It has as a guiding principle ‘Global Questions, Local Sources’, referring to our aim to follow the international developments in historiography and to teach students to critically analyze source materials. In our MA History students develop their academic skills by a thorough orientation on international debates, by analyzing historical sources, and by discussing these insights with professors and co-students. In the range of subjects that is on offer, the Leiden MA History is the broadest and most international History MA in the Netherlands.

The MA History offers seven specialisations. In each specialisation, students in the Leiden MA History acquire a broad, comparative dimension in their knowledge and connect this to global events. This approach to learning brings a broad understanding and an aptitude for critical thinking both of which are highly valued by employers today.

How can you use this knowledge and the skills that you acquire? Which specialisation should you choose within your study programme and why? What skills do you already have, and what further skills do you still want to learn? How do you translate the courses that you choose into something that you’d like to do after graduation?

These questions and more will be discussed at various times during your study programme. You may already have spoken about them with your study coordinator, the Humanities Career Service or other students, or made use of the Leiden University Career Zone. Many different activities are organised to help you reflect on your own wishes and options, and give you the chance to explore the job market. All these activities are focused on the questions: ‘What can I do?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘How do I achieve my goals?’.


You will be notified via the Faculty website, your study programme website and e-mail about further activities in the area of job market preparation. The following activities will help you to thoroughly explore your options, so we advise you to take careful note of them:

Transferable skills

Future employers are interested not only in the subject-related knowledge that you acquired during your study programme, but also in the ‘transferable skills’. These include cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and argumentation and innovation; intrapersonal skills, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciating diversity and metacognition; and interpersonal skills, such as communication, accountability and conflict resolution. In short, they are skills that all professionals need in order to perform well.

It is therefore important that during your study programme you not only acquire as much knowledge as possible about your subject, but also are aware of the skills you have gained and the further skills you still want to learn. The course descriptions in the e-Prospectus of the MA History include, in addition to the courses’ learning objectives, a list of the skills that they aim to develop.
The skills you may encounter in the various courses are:

  • Collaboration

  • Persuasion

  • Research

  • Self-directed learning

  • Creative thinking

Courses of the MA History

Courses of the study programme obviously help to prepare you for the job market. As a study programme, we aim to cover this topic either directly or less directly in each semester. Within the MA History, this takes place within, for example, the following courses:

  • Thesis Seminar

  • Research Seminar

  • Literature Seminar


If you have any questions about career choices, whether in your studies or on the job market, you are welcome to make an appointment with the career adviser of the the Humanities Career Service 071-5272235, or with your Coordinator of Studies, mrs. Esther Buizer-Janssen.