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The Spanish Black Legend in Europe


Admission requirements

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

There will be an entry test for this course
It consists of a 1,000 word reflection on the reading of:

  • J.N. Hillgarth, The mirror of Spain, 1500-1700. The formation of a myth (The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2000), pages 3-124 (A copy of this book will be made accessible in the University Library)

The reflection has to be handed in at the start of the first class.


The Spanish Black Legend is probably the most well-known and most persistent enemy-image existing within Early Modern Europe. In several European cultures texts were written that perceived the Spanish as both a cruel and intolerant nation. Classical elements include the politics of King Philip II, the Duke of Alba and his Spanish soldiers, the working of the Spanish Inquisition, and the behaviour of the Spanish in their American colonies. Elements of this image even have its repercussions until today.

In this course we will concentrate on the Black Legend as it existed within the Early Modern Low Countries, but placing in within a wider European framework. For those students not able to read Dutch sources, there is ample source material available in other languages such as Italian, Latin, German, French and English.
All students will prepare a final paper based on research using original sources that have to be placed within the historiography on the Black Legend.

Res-MA students are required to make use of different genres of source material and/or of sources coming from different cultures within Europe in order to use a comparative approach to the subject.

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

  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. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    • in the specialisation Europe 1000-1800: 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 learn to analyse a specific early modern discourse within its historical context;
  2. Will learn to make historical comparisons on a European level;
  3. Will learn the basic principles of imagology and cultural transfer theories;
  4. (ResMA only): Will compare different genres of sources and/or sources from different cultures.


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

  • 12 × 2 hours lectures: 24 hours;

  • Reading and assignments on the basis of literature in the first six weeks: 6 × 12 hours: 72 hours;

  • Preparation research proposal and bibliographical survey: 40 hours;

  • Individual meetings: 2 hours;

  • Preparing individual presentation: 30 hours;

  • Preparing and writing final paper: 112 hours.

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography):
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 12-15 (ResMa also: 9 and 16)

  • Entry test
    Measured learning objectives: 10-13

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7, 12-15

  • Assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 10-15 (ResMA also 16)


Written paper: 70 % (including research proposal and final paper)
Oral presentation: 15%
Weekly Assignments: 15%

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:

  • Course information (announcements)

  • Documents

  • Possibly for peer review

Reading list

  • J.N. Hillgarth, The mirror of Spain, 1500-1700. The formation of a myth (The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2000) ISBN: 978-0-472-11092-6. Only pages 3-124 and 309-327 are compulsory reading.
    (A copy of this book will be made accessable in the University Library)

  • A set of further materials available online or in the library, 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.


Dr. R.P. Fagel