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Environmental Democracy in Delta Regions: A Transatlantic Approach


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.

Admission to the North American Studies MA, the History MA or the International Relations MA is sufficient.


The students of this Virtual Exchange (VE) program will investigate how the so-called “great acceleration” – the fast, post-1945 anthropogenic transformation of the planet’s geo-biochemical systems – has impacted different coastal and delta communities across the Altanitic Ocean.

The relation between industrial pollution and the socio-ecological degradation of delta regions such as the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt and the Mississippi one, the challenges with which climate change confronts areas like Zeeland and Virginia, and the varied solutions that these communities have designed to cope with toxic contamination and environmental modification are the core themes of this workshop. By stimulating cross-cultural, interdisciplinary research, this workshop will facilitate knowledge transfer between a group of students based in Leiden and another one based in the United States.

Students will work with articles, policy documents, impact studies, scientific reports and other primary sources that will enable them to reconstruct 1) the ways in which regional, national, and local regulatory bodies have addressed the degradation of such watery environs, and 2) the rise of local demands, concenrs, networks, and forms resilience. The ultimate aim of the workshop is to assess, through the in-depth analysis of coastal and delta communities’ experiences, to what extent such “blue acceleration” has promoted or hindered the emergence of forms of environmental democracy.

The course will first introduce the students to the study of toxic degradation of coastal environments from a historical perspective, by emphasiszing the transatlantic dimension of the phenomenon through a pronounced comparative approach. Students will then share their national case studies with their international peers, through both synchronous and asynchronous sessions that will envision moments of individual research, teamwork, and oral presentation.

By the end of the workshop, students will have created a series of engaging and interactive, student-led lectures, which will be uploaded as vodcasts in an ad hoc website. In addition, Leiden’s students will have to write a short research paper that will be assessed.

Please bear in mind that this 5 EC course will be taught during the fourth block.

Course objectives

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student acquires:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  3. 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;
  4. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  5. 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;
  6. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  7. 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;
  8. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student acquires:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence: the manner in which migrations (of people, goods and ideas) between and within states have led to shifts (in cohesion, ethnic composition, policies, imaging, culture, and power relations) in the period 1600-2000, with a focus on (urban) networks (within and across borders);
    -in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

  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 Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence: the interdisciplinary approach (application of theories and methods from social sciences), the comparative perspective (diachronic and synchronic) and working with a large variety of primary sources;
    -in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: 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 Elective Course

The student acquires:

  1. A better understanding of environmental history, its contemporary trends, and its historical and societal relevance;
  2. Operative knowledge of transatlantic history, its comparative methods and its socio-political dynamics;
  3. In-depth and first-habd experience with blended leraning and virtual exchange projects.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Hybrid Seminars. Attendance is compulsory. This means that students must attend every session of the workshop, both online and offline.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 2.500-3000 words, based on research in primary sources)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 10-13 (ResMA also: 9)

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 4-6, 11-13

  • Participation in Class
    Measured learning objectives: 2, 6, 7, 10-13 (ResMA also: 9)


  • Paper: 50%

  • Oral presentation: 30%

  • Participation: 20%

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 Brightspace.


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.

Reading list

Will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.