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A story of distrust. The relationship between socialism and the military in The Netherlands and other European countries (1890-2000)


Admission requirements

This course can accommodate a (limited) number of students who do not have the ability to read Dutch sources.


In the countries of western Europe the relationship between socialist parties and the armed forces has been characterized by mutual distrust. Since the end of the 19th century socialist views on military affairs have diverged from enthusiastic support of total disarmament to a more or less reluctant acceptance of a strong defence posture. Irrespective of these policy views, socialists parties tended to look upon the military as a potentially dangerous bulwark of conservatism and authoritarianism. The armed forces, and particularly their officers, were generally just as suspicious of socialism.
During this course we will explore this tenuous relationship between socialism and the military. The Netherlands will be our most important case, but we will take a look at other European countries as well. We will focus our research on a number of persons – for instance ‘red’ officers or socialist ministers of defence – who have tried to bridge the gap between socialism and the military. How did they try to bring those two communities together?

Course objectives

This course will serve as an introduction to an interesting field of study, which is the study of civil-military relations in democratic societies. Its purpose is also to train students in the use of a wide array of primary sources: government and party archives, parliamentary records, newspapers, brochures, private correspondence, oral history, etc. By means of these sources they will learn how to formulate and answer a specific research question. They will present their findings both orally and in a paper.


See here.

Mode of instruction

A mixture of (guest) lectures and interactive seminars.

Assessment method

Oral presentation, paper



Reading list

To be announced.


via uSis.

Contact information

Email: prof.dr. B. Schoenmaker