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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 examine two current debates in the history of medieval and early modern Europe.
The aim of the literature seminars is both to let students get acquainted with historiographical developments and have them 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.

Debate I: The Crusades at the Crossroads
Teacher: 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 two sessions, two recent books on the broader theme (Tyerman en Cobb) will be discussed in order to get an idea of the outlines of the modern historiographical debate on the crusades, of some of its major issues, and of the avalanche of literature that has been produced during the last two decades. 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

Debate II: The impact of military enterprise on early modern Europe and the world
Teacher: Olaf van Nimwegen, weeks 4-6


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

  • 6) 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.

  • 7) (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:

  • 8) Will have a thorough knowledge of two current historiographical debates on cross-cultural interactions in medieval and early modern history: one related to the crusades, the other on early modern slavery;
    Understands the complexity of these debates in terms of the interaction between states, cities and private intermediaries during this period; capacity to engage with current debates on early modern slavery on the frontier between Europe and the Ottoman world.

  • 9) Will be able to develop her/his own critical view of a specific aspect of these debates through oral presentations and written papers, based on the reading of several recent monographs and a selection of articles.

  • 10) Developed analytical skills;

  • 11) Developed communication and debating skills


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

  • Lectures: 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

Part 1:


  • Essay
    Measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10, for Res MA students also 7

  • Short presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10
    Participation in group discussion
    *Measured learning objectives: 2, 4-6, 8-10, for ResMA students also 5


Essays: 70%
Presentation & participation in discussion: 30%

Part 2:


  • Participation in group discussion
    Measured learning objectives: 2, 4-6, 8-10, for ResMA students also 5

  • Literature reviews (3 in total)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10

  • Final essay
    Measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-10, for Res MA students also 7


  • Essays: 70%

  • Presentation & participation in discussion: 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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Literature

Reading list

Debate I (Hoppenbrouwers)

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

  • Paul M. Cobb, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). Available on college shelf in University Library.

Debate II (Roşu)

  • Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) [available on course shelf in University Library]

  • Other readings will be provided online


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. General information about uSis is available.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Prof.dr. P.C.M. Hoppenbrouwers Dr. F. Roşu


No remarks.