Universiteit Leiden

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History (research) (MA)

About the Programme

During the two-year History (Research) programme you will learn from inspired academics and learn how to conduct quality research.

Although the main focus of the programme is on your chosen specialisation, it also includes a number of courses enabling you to acquire a better understanding of theories on historical processes, historical debates and methodology of historical research. In the first semester, you will follow a course in historical methodology, in the second semester a course in developing research proposals.

Literature Seminar

The programme starts with an intensive literature seminar, which covers the first 8 weeks of the semester. During this course you will discuss recent insights and key issues within your specialisation. The literature seminar is valued at 10 EC.

Research Seminars

You will follow two research seminars within your specialisation during which you will carry out research on the basis of original source material or published documents. You will take one research seminar during the first semester. The second research seminar may be taken during the second semester, or abroad during the third semester. Each research seminar is valued at 10 EC.

Historical Theory

This course is compulsory for all Research MA students. It discusses major problems in historical theory or philosophy of history through close readings of relevant texts. Topics that will be addressed include explanations, models, intentions, representations, narratives, paradigms, comparisons, objectivity, and ethics. The course is valued at 10 EC.

Developing Research Proposals

This course focuses on writing a research proposal. You will discuss various types of successful research projects and reflect upon the organisation of academic research. You will develop your own proposal, developing a good research question and including debate, feasibility, and innovative character. The course will guide you through this process. Senior researchers will visit the class to comment upon their own ongoing research projects. The course is valued at 10 EC and is compulsory for all Research MA students.


The tutorial is the mainstay of our Research MA as it offers intensive, eye-to-eye discussions with one of Leiden’s many specialists. During the tutorial you will explore the field and determine the subject and research question of your thesis. The tutorial is valued at 10 EC.

Courses Research Schools

Within the Research MA History, you will take courses at a national Research School, amounting to at least 10 EC. You will compose this set of courses yourself, together with the Coordinator of Studies. Research Schools courses offer training in both methodology and area specific knowledge. Research MA students choose courses at the Research school that relates most with their possible area of research.

Optional Courses

You will also choose a number of optional courses, worth up to a total of 20 EC. You are advised to study these courses abroad. The optional courses may also be spent on a research internship, or at courses (level 500) offered at any department of Leiden University or at another Dutch university.


The programme concludes with a thesis, based on original source research and a final oral exam. Together they are valued at 30 EC. The level of the thesis will have to meet high standards. In principle, the (shortened) thesis will have to be worthy of publication in an academic journal. During the final ceremony you are expected to present and defend your thesis vis-à-vis with your thesis supervisor and a second examiner.

The main aim of the programme is to ensure that after graduation, you will be able to function as a junior academic researcher, either in a semi-academic position or at a university. You will be able to solve complex academic problems independently, critically and creatively, and report on these results with clarity both in writing and verbally. The programme qualifies you to continue your studies in a PhD studentship.

Latest knowledge

All courses are taught by academics who are active researchers. The curriculum is regularly updated to reflect contemporary academic debates and the very latest insights. Regular seminars are held presenting students with our researchers' latest findings. Your research thesis is often linked to one of the research projects of our faculty members, who play an active role in every individual's education, acting as mentors and community builders.

Detailed programme

For a detailed programme, see the Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Prof.dr. Gert Oostindie

Professor of Colonial and Postcolonial History

Prof.dr. Gert Oostindie

“The least any professor of History can do beyond simply teaching students the methods, contents and ethics of the discipline is to help them reflect on why all of this might be helpful for understanding not simply the past, but also the present. As a frequent contributor to the mass media I feel historians have something substantial to add to public debates and in my teaching I do attempt to stimulate my students to think about this, and to develop the requisite skills.”

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