Universiteit Leiden

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Colonial and Global History (research) (MA)

About the programme

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

The programme 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 research skills. Both courses are taught by first-rate instructors and address problems and issues highly relevant throughout your study.

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 the field of Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence.

Research Seminars

You will take two Research Seminars during which you will carry out research on the basis of primary 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.

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 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.

Courses Research Schools

Within the Research MA History, students are required to take courses at a 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.

Developing Research Proposals

This course is also compulsory for all Research MA students. It will focus on the development of your research skills. You will learn how to arrange academic research, from initial research question to publication/research proposal. Senior researchers will guide you through this process, using their own ongoing research projects as guideline.

Optional Courses

You will also take a number of Optional Courses, worth up to a total of 20 EC. We encourage students to take these courses abroad. However, you are also able to fill in this Optional Course space with a multitude of options. See the Prospectus for more information.


You conclude the programme by writing a Research MA-thesis. Students are guided in writing their thesis by thesis supervisors. Upon graduation students sit for a final ceremony for which they defend their thesis and answer questions on additional literature. 

To achieve the appropriate level (B2) for reading Dutch primary sources, the Leiden Academic Language Centre offers three intensive language courses (4 lessons a week; approximately 8 ecs per course). These extra-curricular courses start every year in September, January, and April to finish in June. If you would start with the summer school, though, you may even finish before April. For more details, see the Academic Language Centre’s website. For a suitable integration of these courses into the Research Master Programme, please contact the co-ordinator Colonial and Global History.

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.

Detailed programme

Year 1 & 2
Course EC
Objects of Heritage, Archives and Knowledge. Critical Approaches 10
Navigating History: New Perspectives on Maritime History 10
Literature Seminar: Environmental History 10
Addressing Authority. The Politics of Petitioning 10
Colonial Knowledge, the ‘Third World’, and Countercultural Activism in the 1960s-70s 10
Maritime Treasures: Diving into Maritime History 10
(In)Equalizers! Social and Economic Histories of Inequality(ies) and Difference(s), 1500-2000 10
Asian Events in Early Modern European Sources 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants (ResMA) 10
Surinamese Political History: A Special Case of Shared History? 10
Historical Theory 10
Developing Research Proposals 10
Research School Courses (ResMA History) 10
Tutorial 10
ResMA Thesis History 30
Course EC
Addressing Authority. The Politics of Petitioning 10
Administration, society and culture in Roman North Africa, 46 BC - AD 429 10
Colonial Knowledge, the ‘Third World’, and Countercultural Activism in the 1960s-70s 10
Do Elections Make Democracies? 10
Gender and Politics in Premodern Europe 10
(In)Equalizers! Social and Economic Histories of Inequality(ies) and Difference(s), 1500-2000 10
Maritime Treasures: Diving into Maritime History 10
The Urban Allure: Leisure and Consumption in the Modern Metropole, 1850-1950 10
Research Workshop: Greek and Latin Epigraphy (10 EC) 10
Arsenal of Democracy?: The United States and the World since 1945 10
Asian Events in Early Modern European Sources 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants (ResMA) 10
Dangerous Cities? The Risks of the Urban Environment (1750-2000) 10
In the Wings of Power: The Problem & Purveyors of Political Advice,1200-1800 10
Natural Disasters in Antiquity 10
Return Migration to Europe since the 1850s: Histories, Discourse and Research 10
Russia Revisited in War and Revolution (1914-1921) 10
Surinamese Political History: A Special Case of Shared History? 10
Leiden Elective Academic Periodical 10

For a more 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.

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.

Prof.dr. Gert Oostindie


Prof.dr. Gert Oostindie

“What I find to be really good of the program and its staff as a whole is the combination of expertise in global history writ large and the various specializations in regions (Asian, African, Atlantic), periods (ranging from pre-modern via early modern to post-Second World War and contemporary) and themes (slavery, economic networks, migration and ethnicity, and so on). Both for teaching and research, the proximity of world-class libraries (in Leiden) and archives (in Leiden and the Hague) is absolutely fantastic.”

Public debates

"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."

Comparative history

"My research requires me to reflect not simply on Dutch colonialism and what the subsequent decolonisation meant in the many places around the globe where Dutch colonialism left an imprint, but equally on the impact of this history including the postcolonial migrations in the wake of decolonisation on the Netherlands itself. None of this can be properly understood if we only look at the Dutch case, hence the need for comparative history. For me, this is where all my research and writing is all about, and this is what I try to get across to my students as well: find out for yourself how this history continues to have a huge impact, today."

Admission and Application

Do you want to find out if you are eligible for this Master's Programme?

Check the entry requirements

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