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Current Debates in Medieval and Early Modern History II


Admission requirements

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


In this course we will be examining current debates in the history of medieval and early modern Europe.
The aim of the literature seminars is both to acquaint you with historiographical developments and to let you think about the production of historical knowledge itself. We will therefore not just be charting how historical debates develop, but crucially also investigate why they do so.

Part I

The Crusades at the Crossroads
Peter Hoppenbrouwers, weeks 1-3

The historiography of the crusades to the Middle East has long suffered from a European-Christian bias, which, it is fair to say, developed differing strands between a triumphalist narrative on the one extreme, and a ‘lachrymose’ or self-incriminating one on the other extreme.

Over the last decades more attention has been paid to the Islamic perspective, i.e. to a re-telling of the story of the crusades from a Muslim-historical point of view (even if most of the authors whose work is available in a western language are Westerners). Another recent focal point is viewing the crusades as an integrative meeting-point between different western (Latin-Christian, Greek-Byzantine) and eastern (Arab, Turkish) cultures.
Such views are to a large extent politically correct reflections of contemporary concerns, and so is the latest, revisionist, addition to the debate. It presents the eleventh-century urge to ‘take the cross’ not so much as an expression of increasing fundamentalist-Christian aggression, but as a logical defensive response to centuries of Arab-Muslim attacks on the Latin-Christian world!

In the seminar we will retrace the historiographical debate on the crusades as it has developed over the last half century. In the first session, two recent books on the broader theme (Tyerman en Cobb) will be discussed. In the second session, there will be a group discussion of the outlines of the modern historiographical debate on the crusades, and some of its major issues, on the basis of a selection of articles. The third session will have short presentations of books that students will pick from a list and work up into a review essay afterwards.
Research MA students will read two books from that list

Part II

Cross-cultural diplomacy in the Mediterranean World, 1600-1800
Maurits Ebben, weeks 4-6

The study of early modern diplomacy has long been one of the most conservative subdisciplines in the field of history. During the last three decades, however, diplomatic history has undergone profound changes.
These changes were triggered by developments in other disciplines and happened under the influence of the cultural turn. These gave rise to a range of innovations in diplomatic history, leading historians to focus on the diplomatic process and its cultural dimensions rather than on the results of diplomatic activity.

Diplomatic historians now acknowledge that in early modern times international relations were no monopoly of the state or the sovereign and that they made use of the services of independent interest groups or individuals. Groundbreaking cross-cultural studies on trade history have helped diplomatic historians to integrate relations of European powers with non-European counterparts into their field of interest and to recognize that diplomacy is not an exclusive European affair. Diplomats and independent interest groups and individuals smoothed the way for exchange and negotiations across significant cultural, religious and linguistic divides.

Recently scholars have payed a growing attention to European formal and informal political contacts with the Ottoman world. This seminar will study the recent results in the field of cross-cultural diplomatic interactions of Europeans with non-European counterparts in the Mediterranean World.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  5. (ResMA only): The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  1. 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 Europe 1000-1800: 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. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  1. Will have a thorough understanding of the modern historiographical debate on the crusades;
  2. Will be able to develop her/his own critical view of a specific aspect of this debate through an oral presentation and a written paper, based on the reading of one or two (ResMA only) recent monographs and a selection of articles;
  3. Understands the complexity of the current debate on the rise of early modern diplomacy and has an insight into the interaction between states, cities and private intermediaries during this period;
  4. Has insight in recent debates on the cross-cultural interaction in medieval and early modern history.


The timetable is available on the MA History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Seminars (2 hours per week during 6 weeks): 12 hours.

  • Study of compulsory reading and associated assignments: 100 hours.

  • Reading additional literature, associated class presentation and writing of 2 essays/review articles: 168 hours.

Assessment method

  • Essay
    Measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-11, for Res MA students also 7

  • Assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-11

  • Presentations and participation
    Measured learning objectives: 2, 4-6, 8-11, for ResMA students also 5


Essays: 70%
Assignment, participation and presentations: 30%

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.


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


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Course information

  • Course documents

  • Assignments

Reading list

  • Part I Christopher Tyerman, The Debate on the Crusades 1099-2010 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)

  • Part I Paul M. Cobb, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)

  • Part II J. Black, A history of diplomacy (Londen 2010)

  • Part II Journal of Early Modern History 19, 2-3 (2015) Cross-Confessional Diplomacy and Diplomatic Intermediaries in the Early Modern Mediterranean

  • Additional reading to be announced


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


P.C.M. Hoppenbrouwers
M.A. Ebben