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Constructing National Cultures. Nationalization of the Cultural sphere during the long 19th Century


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


During the long nineteenth-century a shared European civilization became fragmented into a large number of supposedly unique national cultures. During the eighteenth century Classical Antiquity and the Italian Renaissance were still widely admired as the shared sources of inspiration for contemporary arts, architecture and literature, while the French philosophes dominated the intellectual debates throughout the Continent. This all changed at the beginning of the nineteenth century. During the Romantic era new national canons were established. Each nation also needed its own national museum, national library and national archive to preserve the highlights of its cultural heritage. Archeologists began to dig up the remains of a distant national past, while historians rewrote the past in a national sense. Music was nationalized as well. Later on during the nineteenth century the nation’s main monuments were actively preserved or restored. Statues of national heroes were erected, commemorations of major national events were organized and significant landscapes received the status of national parks. Even food was nationalished in nationally defined cuisines.
During the first half of the course we will study the construction of national cultures by discussing various recent studies. During the second half of the course students will present the preliminary results of their own research.

The course starts with an entry test. This will be done through a take-home exam. Instructions can be found on blackboard.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3)The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical pr)blem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) 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;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) 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;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) 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;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 11) 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 Political Culture and National Identities: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;

  • in the subspecialisation Political Debate also: political debates and debating styles in the Netherlands and abroad, both from a historical and a current perspective.

  • 12) 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 Political Culture and National Identities: 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;

  • in the subspecialisation Political Debate also: historical and interdisciplinary analysis of political argumentation and rhetoric.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  • 13) Has acquired basic knowledge and understanding of the impact of nationalism on the cultural sphere;

  • 14) Has acquired a thorough understanding of the concept of nationalization and its applicability to historical cases;

  • 15) Has acquired in depth knowledge of one particular case study;

  • 16) (ResMA only – Has acquired the ability to use a more complex corpus of sources in comparison to regular MA students; and/or the ability to set up and carry out original research which raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or and points to new directions for future research.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher 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 teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature and small asignments (including entry test): 84 hours

  • Assignment(s): prepare and write research paper: 170 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6500-7500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 12-15 (ResMA also: 10 and 16)

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 13-14

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, 15

  • Participation and web-postings
    measured learning objectives: 1-2, 8, 11-14


Written paper: 70 %
Entry test: 10 %
Oral presentation: 10 %
Participation and web-postings: 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 sufficent.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Blackboard.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

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. 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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • publication course outline

  • communication of deadlines

  • discussions (web-postings)

  • feed-back

Reading list

Joep Leerssen, National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History (Amsterdam University Press 2006, or newer edition). Additionally we will read a number of chapters and articles that will be made available on blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. General information about uSis is available.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Eric Storm