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RS: Religious Conflict in Premodern Europe


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.


Many of the influential European conflicts that took place during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are generally labelled as ‘wars of religion’. This implies a direct relation between war and religion. Starting off from the debates on the wars of this period, this class will study the interplay between war and religion in Europe during the period 1000-1800. Besides the wars, there were many smaller conflicts in Europe in which religion may also have played a part, either as a direct cause for the violence, as an a posteriori explanation for the outbreak of violence, as an overall presence in society, or as a condition of possibility. Is it even possible to make a clear distinction between religion and other important societal factors?

In this class, each student will study his or her own conflict for the presence of religious elements, using both primary sources and secondary literature, which will culminate on an individual paper. ResMA students will be given additional responsibility for developing comparisons between the cases that the group is studying, and for exploring approaches from other disciplines. Hopefully, as a group, we will be able to characterize the relation between religion and war for the whole period 1000-1800 and consider if the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are rightfully seen as a central period for the wars of religion. Or should we refrain completely from using the idea of religious wars?

Students are required to take an entry test for this course. Look below at the reading list, the materials to read, understand, and write about are the Gorski-Turkmen-Dervisoglu article and the chapters named in the Handbook of Religion and Violence, plus the three named in the European Wars of Religion. Closer information on this assignment’s format will be published through Brightspace two weeks before our first class.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  5. 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;

  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  7. 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;

  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  9. 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;

  10. (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 the specialisation or subtrack as well as of the historiography of the specialisation Europe 1000-1800, with a particular focus on the broader processes of political, social and cultural identity formation between about 1000-1800; awareness of problems of periodisation and impact of ‘national’ historiographical traditions on the field.

  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation Europe 1000-1800, with a particular focus on the ability to analyse and evaluate primary sources from the period, if necessary with the aid of modern translations; ability to make use of relevant methods of quantitative and qualitative analysis to interpret sources in their textual and historical context.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. Will gain insight in the nature of armed conflict and violent persecution in this period

  2. Will gain insight in the multiple possible relations between religion and armed violence

  3. Will get acquainted with the primary evidence that can be used to study these processes in the period

  4. (ResMA only:) will develop their comparative skills (the different forms of religious violence across Europe)

  5. (ResMA only:) will explore (theoretical) approaches to violence and religion elaborated in other disciplines such as political science, sociology, literary studies.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer 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 lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6500-7500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15 (ResMA also: 16, 17)

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 4, 11-14

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 2-7, 11-15 (ResMA also: 16, 17)

  • Other assignments (content to be announced through Brightspace)
    measured learning objectives: 11-15 (ResMA also: 16, 17)


  • Written paper: 70%

  • Entry test: 10%

  • Oral presentation and other assignments: 20%

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

  • Philip S. Gorski, and Gulay Turkmen-Dervisoglu, “Religion, Nationalism, and Violence: An Integrated Approach”. Annual Review of Sociology 39 (2013): 293-310.

  • The European Wars of Religion. An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations, and Myths, edited by Wolfgang Palaver, Harriet Rudolph, and Dietmar Regensburger. Farnham: Ashgate, 2016, chapters by Benedict, Rudolph, Cavanaugh.

  • The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence, edited by Mark Juergensmeyer, Margo Kitts, and Michael Jerryson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, chapters by Hall, Stewart&Strathern, Jones, Philpott, and Kitts.

  • More chapters in European Wars and in the Oxford Handbook

  • To be announced


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.


Not applicable.