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Stuff: Histories of Material Culture


Admission requirements

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


Although neither individuals nor societies can exist without human-made objects, material culture only rarely stands at the center of historians' attention. Most historical inquiries are based on textual evidence and tend to neglect objects. This course encourages students to expand their range of historical approaches by looking afresh at the human-made material universe. What happens, we will ask, when we place stuff rather than text at the center of historical inquiry? To acquire the necessary conceptual and methodological background, we will read key works from disciplines ranging from history to anthropology to sociology to cultural studies.

The aim of the course is to put students in a position to research the history of an object, or a group of objects, that have acquired individual as well as broader cultural significance during the modern period. While most students will probably pursue their research project individually, there is the possibility of conducting group projects if several students share an interest in one object or one group of objects.

There will be no entry test, but students need to come to the first session with a solid idea about an object that they wish to write about.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  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 has acquired:

  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 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;

  1. 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, 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 Research Workshop

The student has acquired

  1. the ability to engage with material objects as a source and subject of historical research;

  2. the ability to present the findings of individual and/ot collaborative research with fellow students;


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the lecturer 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 lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 2.500-3000 words, based on research in primary sources)

measured learning objectives: 1-6, 8-12

  • Oral presentation

measured learning objectives: 4-6, 7, 11-12

Class participation:

measured learning objectives: 2, 6, 7, 9-10


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 30%

  • Class Discussion: 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 Brightspace.


If the candidate fails the course as a result of a weak paper, they can rewrite the paper after consultation with the instructor. For reasons of equitable treatment, the highest overall mark that a re-sit paper can achieve is 6.

Marking and feedback

The papers will be graded within 15 working days of the course deadline. To receive feedback beyond the written comments on Brightspace, please make an appointment with me.

Reading list

The readings will be posted on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


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

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


Not applicable