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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 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. Lionel Laborie

Balancing Power and Faith in Early Modern Europe
The early modern period is often described as a long struggle of emancipation from the yoke of religion that climaxed with the French Revolution. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) established the principle of state sovereignty; it recognised Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism as official Churches; and granted rulers the right to determine the religion of their own state. A new balance of power and of faith thus emerged in Europe. In this session, we will reappraise the role religion played in early modern political affairs and consider how religious violence and tolerance shaped national identities in post-Westphalian Europe.

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. J. Augusteijn

The welfare state in the 20th century.
In this meeting 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.

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

  • 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..


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours= 140 hours

  • Lectures: 7 × 2= 14 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Assignment(s): 26 hours

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.


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

Exam review

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.


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. L.P.F. Laborie

  • Kaplan, Benjamin, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press, 2007).

  • Heinz Schilling, “Confessionalisation in Europe: Causes and Effects for Church, State, Society, and Culture,” in Klaus Bussmann and Heinz Schilling (eds), 1648: War and Peace in Europe, (Munich: Bruckmann, 1998), vol. 1, pp. 219-28.

  • Gregory, Jeremy, ‘Transforming the Age of Reason into an Age of Faiths: or, Putting Religions and Beliefs (Back) into the Eighteenth Century’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 32, no. 3, 2009, pp. 287-305.

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