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Introduction to the History of States and Nations in Europe


Admission requirements

This course is only open to students of the MA Europaeum.


This course provides a broad overview of the political history of Europe from about 1200 until the present. The focus will be on state formation, national identity construction, the role of empires, the nature of absolutism, the rise of nationalism, fascism and the welfare state. During the course we will discuss some of the major historiographical debates on these issues.


Please note that readings are quite substantial. Students are advised to start preparing well in advance.

Week 1: Dr. C. V. Weeda

State and Nation in the Late Medieval Europe
In recent years historians have increasingly underlined the potency of sociocultural, religious, legal and political traditions of nationhood before the centralization of the state and manifestation of nationalism in the nineteenth century. In this first seminar we will examine what shaped the nation in the late Middle Ages in Western Europe from a political and cultural perspective. In preparation for this seminar students will read two pivotal works on nation formation and the impact of politics, ideas and the imagination in medieval and early modern times, submitting two quarps prior to our first meeting.

Week 2: Dr. F. Roșu

Nation, State, and Empire in Early Modern Eastern Europe
As a category of historical analysis, Eastern Europe is an elusive concept. Scholars who study the development of nations and states in Europe often refer to the region as an exception to their models, rather than an integral part of the continental experience. In this meeting, we will explore East European history from three perspectives: 1) Overview: the main political and cultural differences between North-East Europe and South-East Europe in the early modern period; 2) Politics: models of state formation and the meaning of political sovereignty in the context of the Ottoman domination; and 3) Identity: the role of empires and composite monarchies in stifling or stimulating the growth of national identity in the region.

Week 3: Prof. dr. J.F.J. Duindam

Winners and losers in the early modern period? Grand narratives re-examined.
In our meeting, we will re-examine several closely related traditional views on state-formation. Did the state emerge as a result of the victory of princes over unruly barons? Zmora presents an entirely different picture. How does current research (Braddick, Wilson, Beik) view the classic examples of successful versus ‘failed’ state-building, France and the Holy Roman Empire? And finally, did levels of cultural coherence and political unification in these domains fit together neatly? On the whole, this meeting offers a comparative early modern commentary on the notions of state and nation.

Week 4: Dr. H.J. Storm

The Rise of Nationalism and Nation-Building During the Long Nineteenth Century.
Nationalism was a product of the French Revolution, at least according to the dominant modernist interpretation. In this meeting we will focus on the rise of nationalism in the early nineteenth century and the subsequent attempts to stimulate the identification of the population with the (new) nation-states, a process that is also known as nation-building. This in fact, entailed a thorough nationalization of daily life. We will also review recent debates on the construction of national identities, national indifference and banal nationalism.

Week 5: Dr. M.K. Baár

Nationalism, Ethnic Minorities and Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe.
In the twentieth century, following the decline of large multinational empires, Europe (and particularly Central and Eastern Europe) became a site of violence and ethnic cleansing. Such atrocities typically took place during war or during the chaotic transition from war to peace and could involve deportations, forced population transfer and genocide. This meeting will explore the reasons for the emergence of mass violence on the basis of concrete case studies and will reveal that the traces of destruction can be seen in every society, and its potentiality is part of us all.

Week 6: Dr. P. Dassen

The problem of state and nation in German history, c. 1870-1945
One of the central problems of German history is the question of German identity: what ‘is’ Germany? This question is related to several themes: where are the borders of Germany? Who is a ‘German’? Is there a unique German development, different from the development in western countries like France and Great Britain (the so called German Sonderweg?) In this seminar we will focus on German history after the unification of 1871, when ‘state’ and ‘nation’ did not overlap, and its consequences for German and European history.

Week 7: Various instructors

Forum on the impact of Globalisation and the Rise of Populism in the Present.

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 specialization

The student has acquired:

  • 5) 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 Europaeum: the European identity in comparative perspective; the development of European culture and society; international comparison; archival research; the perspective of one of the three different traditions – Leiden, Sorbonne and Oxford

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  • 6) acquires a thorough knowledge of the history of states and nations in Europe.

  • 7) becomes acquainted with recent historiographical debates on state-building, nationalism and national identity construction..


Visit MyTimetable.

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.

Assessment method


  • Assignments (short reports – so-called Quarps – on required reading)
    measured learning objectives: 1-3, 5-7

  • Active participation in class
    measured learning objectives: 1-7


  • Assignments: 80%

  • Participation: 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the written assignments are to be revised after consultation with the coordinator.

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:

  • Communication

  • Distribution of literature

  • More information on the short literature reports – the QUARPS

Reading list

Please start to prepare the readings well in advance, because particularly for week 1 the readings are quite substantial. The books and articles of the required reading will be available at the History section of the University Library (werkgroepenkast).

Week 1: Dr. C.V. Weeda

  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London 2006).

  • Caspar Hirschi, The Origins of Nationalism: An Alternative History from Ancient Rome to Early Modern Germany (Cambridge 2012).

Week 2: Dr. F. Roşu

  • Thomas Ertman, The Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1997), ch. 1 (Introduction) and ch. 6: page 1-34, 264-305.

  • Robert Bideleux and Ian Jeffries, A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change (London and New York, 1998), ch. 2 (“The Rise of the Ottoman Empire”), 68-81.

  • Azar Gat, Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism (Cambridge, 2012), 163-174, 185-193 (the Czech lands, Poland, Hungary, and South-East Europe).

  • Dariusz Kołodziejczyk, “What Is Inside and What Is Outside? Tributary States in Ottoman Politics,” in Gábor Kármán and Lovro Kunčević, eds., The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 2013), 421-432.

Week 3: Prof. dr. J.F.J. Duindam

  • Hillay Zmora, Monarchy, Aristocracy, And The State In Europe 1300-1800 (London; New York 2001).

  • Michael J. Braddick, ‘The embodiment of the state’ in: Idem, State formation in early modern England c. 1550-1700 (Cambridge 2000) 11-27.

  • Peter H. Wilson, ‘Still a Monstrosity? Some reflections on Early Modern German Statehood’ The Historical Journal (2006) 565-576.

  • William Beik, ‘The Absolutism of Louis XIV as Social Collaboration’, Past & Present, 188 (2005) 195-224.

Week 4: Dr. H.J. Storm

  • Siniša Malešević, Nation-States and Nationalisms (Cambridge 2013)

  • Eric Storm, ‘'The Nationalization of the Domestic Sphere', Nations & Nationalism (2017) 173-193.

  • Tara Zahra, ‘Imagined Noncommunities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis’, Slavic Review (2010) 93-119.

Week 5: Dr. M.K. Baár

  • Norman M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred. Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe* (Cambridge, MA, Harvard U Press, 2001).

  • Philipp Ther, ''Ethnic Cleansing'', in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History (Oxford, 2012), 141-162.

  • Stefan Troebst, ''The Discourse on Forced Migration and European Culture of Remembrance'', Hungarian Review, 1, 3-4, no. 3-4 (2012), 395-412

Week 6: Dr. J. Augusteijn

  • G. Esping-Anderson, The three worlds of welfare capitalism (Princeton University Press 1990) p. 1-138.

  • Rodney Lowe, ‘Torn between Europe and America. The British Welfare State from Beveridge to Blair’ in: Anneke Ribberink and Hans Righart eds., The Great, the New and the British (Utrecht 2000).

  • John Gelissen, Worlds of Welfare, Worlds of Consent? Public Opinion on the Welfare State (Tilburg 2001) Chapter 2, pp. 21-50.


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. H.J. Storm