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Research Workshop: Newspapers, Public Opinion and the Emergence of Mass Politics


Admission requirements

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


Beginning in the nineteenth-century, mass politics became an essential feature of European states, one that shapes our societies until today. From the growing importance of parliamentary assemblies to the extension of suffrage; from the creation of the first social movements to the foundation of modern parties, we cannot imagine what today’s democratic system would look like without the substantial changes of politics more than a century ago. In this history of democracy, the concept of the “masses” became an essential feature of a new legitimizing strategy: instead of the quality of political representatives, it was the quantity of the represented that legitimized power.

In this research workshop we will work together on my new research project that focuses on the emergence of mass politics in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany in the long nineteenth century. For this purpose, we will start with the theoretical concepts that support this project: Conceptual History/Begriffsgeschichte and Transnational History. Students will then be introduced to the respective recently digitalized newspaper databases (e.g. 19th Century British Newspapers, Delpher, Stabi Preussen and Stabi Bayern, Anno) for the three countries. We will discuss different approaches to use these databases, from simple search queries to more demanding forms of digitalized analysis of corpus linguistics. Studying the changing meaning of the term “masses” students we will pay close attention to the influence of foreign events such as the emergence of protest movements, revolutions and suffrage rights extension on domestic conceptual change. There will also be sufficient room to critically reflect on the values of digital tools for answering historical questions.

The workshop is a forum to learn, test and explore research ideas as a work-in-progress project. Instead of final research papers, we will conclude with reports on (preliminary) research results that critically examine the theoretical and empirical challenges of obtaining historical research with the enormous amount source material available in digital newspaper databases.

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;

    1. 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

  • 11) 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 Politics, Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities: international comparison and transfer; 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 Seminar

The student:

  • 13) knows how to close-read, analyse and critically reflect on the use of different kinds of primary sources, and use them effectively and creatively in the practice of historical research

  • 14) ) Has acquired basic knowledge and understanding of the history of conceptual history and political transfer; in relation with mass politics in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands in the 19th century;

  • 15) Has acquired in-depth knowledge of one particular newspaper database and its application for historical research;


Visit 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, he 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.

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours

  • Attending seminars: 12 hours

  • Practical work: 44 hours

  • Tutoring: 4 hours

  • Written work (i.e. paper or essay): 80 hours

Assessment method


  • Written final report (3000 words, based on discussion of primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography) based on research in primary sources or reflection on these sources
    measured learning objectives: 1-9, 11-15

  • Joint small assignments about sources and literature
    measured learning objectives: 1-9, 11-15

  • Participation in class and online
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 8-9, 11-15


  • Written paper: 75%

  • Participation and small assignments: 25%

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.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. A. Heyer