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Social Movements, Protest and Political Change, 1880-2000


Admission requirements

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


During the nineteenth century, a new kind of protest politics took shape, that blossomed throughout the twentieth century. In order to challenge social and political injustice, people gathered, marched, petitioned and even engaged in violent conflict with the authorities.

Social movements and political protest still play an important role in European politics. Even when social movements and protest are ultimately unsuccessful, they are nonetheless influential.

Spectacular examples of social movements and protest causes include the labor and communist movement, anticolonial and antiracist movements, the women’s movement and radical youth movements such as the squatters movement.

But how were these social movements formed? What drove individual activists? What kinds of changes did they bring about? How did they interact with authorities? And how do social scientists and historians research these movements?

The goal of this course is to 1.) provide students with a global overview of the history of social movements, 2.) familiarize them with the central historiographical debates on social movements and 3.) provide them with hands-on experience with in-depth, source-based research on social movements.

To do so, we will discuss recent literature on social movements, protest and conflict from the 1880s to the present, and each student will choose specific social movements on which s/he will focus her research project. The goal of the course is an oral presentation and a written paper on the history and development of a specific social movement, based on recent secondary literature and in-depth research of primary sources.

To enter the course, students are required to take an entry test. For this entry test, the students are required to read:

  • Introduction and chapter 1 of Tarrow, Power in Movement (1998), 1-27 (online in library catalogue)

  • M. van der Linden, ‘European Social Protest, 1000-2000’, Berger and Nehring, The History of Social Movements in Global Perspective (2016), 175-209 (online in library catalogue)

  • Chapter 3 of Tilly, Regimes and Repertoires (2006), 49-59 (online in library catalogue)

  • M. Kaldor, ‘Social Movements, NGOs, and Networks’ in Global Activism Reader (2011), 3-24 (on course reserve shelve in Leiden University Library)

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 pr)blem;

  • 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 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 a global overview of the history and dynamics of social movements, from the 1880s to the present;

  • 14) Has acquired a thorough understanding of the central debates in social movement scholarship;

  • 15) Has acquired the skills to find, select and properly analyze primary sources on the chosen topic (i.e. a social movement of choice)

  • 16) (ResMA only – The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline)


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

  • Entry test: 10 hours

  • Lectures: 30 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 40 hours

  • Assignment(s): 40 hours

  • Other components: Paper: 160 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6500-7500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 13-15

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 9, 13-15

  • Weekly assignments: 1-15
    measured learning objectives: 1-15


  • Written paper: 70 %

  • Oral presentation: 10%

  • Entry test: 10%

  • Participation in class and assignments: 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 sufficient .


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.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

Literature will be announced in class and on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. B.S. van der Steen