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Window on the East: Europe Imagines the Russian Empire, c.1680-1812


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges


This course explores how Europeans conceptualised the Russian Empire in the long eighteenth century. We will engage closely with the history of the Russian Empire in the period of its ascendancy, to gain an understanding of how that history is ideologically shaped. The period in question not only saw Russia’s increasing integration into the European states system and imaginative horizons; it also saw unprecedented intellectual ferment within the Empire itself, as its cosmopolitan elite travelled, corresponded, observed, and identified with parts of the world outside of the Empire’s official borders. This course therefore equips students to conceive of ‘Europe’ broadly and fluidly, exploring its tensions across Europe but also within Russia itself. Taking its cue from the approaches of new imperial history, new historicism, and the global intellectual history of empire, this course also teaches students to reconceive of Russia not as a nation-state, but as an imperial and colonial power, as well as to analyse how this power has been understood and described across fields such as literature, the natural sciences, history, diplomacy, and anthropology. These are all crucial intellectual tasks to undertake in yet another period in which Russia attempts to assert itself on the world stage.

Course objectives

  • 1) carry out a common assignment

  • 2) devise and conduct research of limited scope, including
    a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature:
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information:
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate:
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.

  • 3) reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;

  • 4) write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the first year Themacolleges, including
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.

  • 5) participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

  • 6) The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically- in the specialisation General History of the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions.

  • 7) The student has knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically in the specialisation General History of the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

The student:

  • 8) gains a broad understanding of Europe’s relationship with the Russian Empire in the long eighteenth century;

  • 9) grasps how attempts to determine what Russia was are intertwined with attempts to determine what Europe was;

  • 10) develops a sensitivity towards the interconnectedness of political, historical, cultural, and scientific thought and genres of texts, and ability to question the ostensible neutrality of texts and authors that present themselves as such;

  • 11) acquires a competence in approaching problems in the history of ideas transnationally.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (attendance required)

This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If you are not able to attend, you are 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 you do not comply with the aforementioned requirements, you will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (5000-6000 words, based on historiography, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)

measured learning objectives: 2-4, 6-11

  • Oral presentation

measured learning objectives: 3-4, 6-11

  • Participation

measured learning objectives: 5

  • Assignment 1 (paper introduction and bibliography)

measured learning objectives: 2-4, 6-11

  • Assignment 2 (weekly discussion questions)

measured learning objectives: 2, 5, 8-11


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 10%

  • Participation: 10% (5% for feedback on other presentations; 5% for contributions to the seminar more generally)

  • Assignment 1: 10%

  • Assignment 2: 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.


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline, as published in the corresponding Brightspace course.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised. 

Reading list

Please refer to the reading list(s) on Brightspace.


Enrolment through My StudyMap is mandatory.

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


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

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