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Research Workshop: Egodocuments of Politicians


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


The term 'egodocument' refers to personal, autobiographical writing, such as memoirs, diaries and letters. The term was coined in the Netherlands, and in this course we will discuss the opportunities (and the pitfalls) which this type of material offers to political historians, in particular of the Netherlands. We wil concentrate on what egodocuments by politicians tell us about what it meant to be a politician, about the ‘calling’ of politicians, the way they were criticized or perceived, and their interactions with citizens and the electorate, from the nineteenth century until today. Possible topics of research include the liberal leader Thorbecke, the neo-Calvinist Abraham Kuyper, socialist leaders Domela Nieuwenhuis and Troelstra, but also lesser political gods may be studied, or recent figures such as Ruud Lubbers, Wim Kok, etc, as well as political outsiders of any kind – as long as egodocuments are available. Gender aspects may also be a topic of research, e.g. in egodocuments by Aletta Jacobs, Henriette Roland Holst, Hilda Verwey-Jonker and Hedy d’Ancona. You may pick your own favourite egodocument. We will start by reading theoretical reflections on the genre, and by reading one or more egodocuments together. The concluding essay may be the product of cooperation between students; teamwork will be encouraged. The subject matter of the course is primarily Dutch history and many sources and literature will be in Dutch, so passive knowledge of Dutch is a real benefit. However, it will be possible to study egodocuments from a different origin and other countries, and in other language.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  3. 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;
  4. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  5. 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;
  6. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  7. 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;
  8. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of an aspect of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, politics in a cultural and societal context from 1800;
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of aspects of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: 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 Workshop

The student has acquired:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the opportunities and pitfalls of the genre of political egodocuments.
  2. The capacity to analyze political egodocuments and to extract from these documents insights pertaining to the history of political culture.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Workshop (compulsory attendance)

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

Assessment method


  • Written final report (3000 words, based on research in, discussion of, or reflection on primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-12

  • Joint small assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 1-12

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-12

  • Active participation in class
    Measured learning objectives: 3, 5-12


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Assignments, including oral presentation: 30%

  • Participation in class: 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 sufficient


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


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

Inspection and feedback

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.

Reading list

Will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.