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Pioneers of mass politics: 19th century British, Irish and American origins of the modern pressure group.


Admission requirements


In the early nineteenth century, Irish, British and American pressure groups opposing, for example, slavery, or the British Corn Laws, introduced a new type of politics: mass politics. Pressure groups provided people who were formally excluded from political life (women, members of the (lower) middle class or ethnic and religious minorities), with an opportunity to actively engage in national politics. In due time, the pressure group would become an influential political institution.
In this course we will examine the origins and development of the pressure group, and try to establish its impact on political life and the democratization process. What methods were used to put pressure on government? Who became members? After reading and discussing secundary literature, the students will select a specific case study and write a paper based on sources such as digitized newspapers, meeting reports and pressure group propaganda.
Discussing the opportunities and limits of pressure group politics with leaders of current pressure groups will also be part of this course.

Course objectives

  • Gaining knowledge of and insight into the development of politics and democracy in the 19th century;

  • Acquiring insight into the historiography of the pressure group and politics of protest, and develop sensibilities to study this field from the perspective of political culture;

  • Developing skills required to execute independent and critical historical research, and to present this research orally and in writing.


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Tutorial

  • Independent study of academic literature

  • Study visit

  • Field trip

  • Work placement

Assessment method

Entry exam, oral presentation and participation in discussions (25%); 7500 word paper (75%)



Reading list

To be announced


See enrolment-procedure

Contact information

Dr. M.J. Janse