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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 Europaeum MA


This course focuses on issues of state formation and nationalism since the 12th century in (Western-) Europe, concentrating on developments in the Low Countries, Germany, France and Britain.


Week 1: Dr. H.J. Storm, Introduction: The rise of nationalism
In the first meeting we will discuss some classical studies on the rise of nationalism. Anderson and Gellner gave shape to the modernist, constructivist paradigm, while Smith is their main opponent. By focusing on the French Revolution as a watershed in European history we will also see how nationalism almost entirely changed the relationship between the state and its citizens.

Week 2: Dr. R. Stein, State and nation on the threshold of the modern era: the case of the Netherlands
In the fourteenth and fifteenth century, the political integration ofthe Netherlands took place. In a process not unlike the present-day unification of Europe, ten former principalities were united under the Burgundian-Habsburg crown. In this class, we will first discuss the character and importance of (national) identities in a pre-modern society, and subsequently the consequences of the political developments in the Netherlands for these identities.

Week 3: Prof. dr. J. Pollmann, Imagining a national community in the Dutch Golden Age
As a brand new state, the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century had to work hard to legitimize its existence. To do so, authors, lawyers and policy makers deployed a variety of strategies. In the process, they both and paradoxically imagined a supralocal ‘Dutch community’ and affirmed the importance of local differences and distinctions. By exploring the emergence and coexistence of these strategies, we will revisit some of the assumptions in the literature discussed in week 1, and try and develop a less linear view of the cultural developments that accompanied modern state-building.

Week 4: 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 5: 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 6: Dr. J. Augusteijn: The welfare state in the 20th century
In this session we will deal with a number of questions relating to the new relationship which developed between the state and its citizens in the late nineteenth century and the consequent emergence of the Welfare State. These questions include: What is a Welfare State and how do you distinguish it from other types of states? What are the historical roots of this form of statehood? What is the value/accuracy of the typology suggested by Esping-Anderson? How did the welfare state develop in the UK? It will finish up with a brief discussion of the implication of the globalisation process for the relationship between state and citizen and the role of the nation in identity formation.

Course objectives

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • Insight into the social relevance of history

  • Knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations and its historiography, more specifically in the Europaeum Programme: state formation in Europe; European identity from a comparative perspective; the development of culture and society in Europe

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation, more specifically – in the Europaeum Programme: international comparison; archive research; the perspective of three different traditions – Leiden, Sorbonne and Oxford

Students acquire a thorough knowledge of the history of states and nations in Europe.


Timetable History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total: 140 hours

  • Class and short reports on required readings: 84 hours

  • Paper: 56 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and grading method (in percentages):.

Participation and short reports (60 %) testing:

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English.

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the history of states and nations in Europe and of its theoretical aspects + insight into the social relevance of history

Paper (40 %) Paper of 4.000 words maximum based on about 500 pages extra literature on the topic of one of the classes (supervised by one of the instructors), testing:

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English.


For communication, grading and links to relevant literature


Reading list

Required reading:

Week 1: Dr. H.J. Storm:

  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the origin and Spread of Nationalism (Revised edition. New York: Verso, 1991).

  • Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca and New York 1983; or other edition).

  • Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998) Introduction, Chapter 1 and Chapter 8.

Week 2: Dr. R. Stein:

  • J. Israel, The Dutch Republic; its rise, greatness and fall 1477-1806 (Oxford 1995): Chapter 2, ‘On the threshold of the modern era’, p. 9-40; Chapter 4, ‘Territorial consolidation’, p. 55-73.

  • Robert Stein and Judith Pollmann eds., Networks, Regions and Nations. Shaping Identities in the Low Countries, 1300-1650 (Leiden 2010): ‘Introduction’ (Stein) and ‘The urban network in the Low Countries’ (Stein).

Week 3: Prof. Dr. J. Pollmann

  • J.J. Woltjer, ‘Dutch privileges, real and imaginary’ in: J.S. Bromley and E.H. Kossmann (ed.), Britain and the Netherlands V, Some political mythologies (Den Haag 1975) 19-35.

  • Judith Pollmann. ‘No Man’s Land. Reinventing Netherlandish Identities, 1585-1621’ in: Robert Stein and Judith Pollmann eds., Networks, Regions and Nations. Shaping Identities in the Low Countries, 1300-1650 (Leiden 2010) 241-261.

  • Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches. An interpretation of Dutch culture in the Golden Age (London 1987), chapter 2, pp. 51-125.

  • Jill Stern, Orangism in the Dutch Republic in Word and Image, 1650-1675 (Manchester 2010), chapter 4, pp. 84-104.

Week 4: 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 5: Dr. P. Dassen

  • A. Labrie, ‘Kultur and Zivilisation in Germany during the nineteenth century’, Yearbook of European Studies 7 (1994) 95-120.

  • D. Blackbourn, History of Germany 1780-1918. The Long Nineteenth Century (2nd ed., Oxford 2003) from chapter 4 onwards (p. 133-374)

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.

Recommended reading (for the historical background)

  • Hagen Schulze, States, nations and nationalism: From the Middle Ages to the Present (Oxford: Blackwell 1998) or German original.


via uSis


dhr. Dr. H.J. Storm


The books and articles of the required reading will be available at the History section of the University Library (werkgroepenkast!).