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NATO, The Netherlands and the Cold War


Admission requirements

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


Are we experiencing a new Cold War? Due to the recent tensions in the relationship with Russia, this question pops up every now and then in the Dutch media. Historians tend to answer this question with an emphatic no. The 'real' Cold War, that 'broke out' at the end of the 1940s and lasted until 1990, had unique characteristics, very distinct from the present situation.

What made the Cold War so special? This research seminar will start out with formulating an answer to this question. We will do this by studying the historiography of the Cold War, asking ourselves how historians and other scholars have over the years typified this era. At the same time we will deal with a number of academic debates on the causes, the course and the nature of the Cold War.

During the second phase of our seminar we will focus on the more specific question of how NATO countries, the Netherlands in particular, actually waged the Cold War. This involves not just the study of military planning, but of a wide range of measures in the field of for instance economic and cultural preparedness. We will also deal with non-state actors - such as churches and trade unions - and their role in the East-West conflict, either supportive or critical of government policy. A final aim of this seminar is to try to formulate an answer to the question of how the Cold War affected the lives of ‘ordinary’ citizens in the Netherlands and other NATO countries.

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

The student has acquired:

  • 11) 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 Politics, Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

  • 12) 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 Politics, Culture and National Identities: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  • 13) has acquired thorough knowledge of the historiography on the Cold War and the major academic debates pertaining to this subject.

  • 14) has acquired in depth knowledge of one particular case study.

  • 15) has improved his/her skills in carrying out research in primary sources.

  • 16) has improved his/her skills in carrying out an academic group assigment

  • 17) (ResMA only:) has improved her/his ability to use a more complex corpus of sources in comparison to regular MA students, and her/his ability to carry out original research which raises new questions and pioneers new approaches.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is 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 a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 20 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature and small assignments: 90 hours

  • Prepare and write research paper: 170 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (approximately 6500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15 (ResMA also 17)

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 9-10, 13-15 (ResMA also 17)

  • Assignment 1 (historiographical essay)
    measured learning objectives: 4, 13

  • Assignment 2 (wirt another student: organize and lead a class debate on studied literature) measured learning objectives: 4, 13, 16


  • Written paper: 70 %

  • Oral presentation: 10%

  • 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 sufficent.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Blackboard.


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

Exam review

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


Blackboard will be used for:

  • publication course outline

  • communication of deadlines

  • discussion

Reading list

To be announced on Blackboard.


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Ben Schoenmaker