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Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence (MA)

Economic History

The Economic History subtrack focuses on global Interdependence. It emphasizes the role of business and labour in a global world.

Why choose economic history?

Economic historians, more than economists, generally have better insight in the context and the events that influence economic developments. We explore how inequality and social mobility were shaped by past developments, how economic crises shaped outcomes, how different groups experienced economic change. Economic history can be useful for a career in academia, government, journalism, or the private sector. Graduates in economic history found jobs or have become trainee in for example banking, insurance, and government.

More information

For further questions about the Economic History specialisation, you can contact:

Instead of juxtaposing the Early Modern and the Modern period we are more interested in similarities and continuities with respect to the emergence of networks and institutions in a globalising world since 1600.

In our teaching and research we highlight these themes

We study the existence, co-existence and development of different systems of labor, as part of colonialism, imperialism, industrialization and the rise of the welfare states. We study systems of slavery and emancipation, the role of women and children and the growing importance, worldwide, of trade unions and worker associations.

European overseas expansion resulted in multiple forms of business (family firms, chartered companies, joint stocks) and differentiated systems of social and economic exploitation (intercontinental trade, cross-cultural trade, plantations, colonial/imperial companies, and companies for infrastructural development such as railways and harbours). These form a continuum between 1500 and the 1970s. The business(es) of empire and management of social diversity had particular impact in Western European Societies and Postcolonial States.

In the 20th century we observe a major divergence between the rich countries in the North and poor countries in the South. In addition there are important differences in the political economy of advanced capitalist states. How did they organise labour relations? Why did they expand the welfare state and what kind of welfare state regimes did they introduce? What was the economic role of institutions and which types of economic policy were pursued? In our teaching we combine political and economic events with (macroeconomic and regional) statistics. This theme focuses on income inequality, globalisation and sustainability. Other developments we find important are the process of European integration and the recent challenge of the energy transition.

Detailed programme

For a detailed overview of the curriculum, please check the Prospectus. This shows the themes we focus on this academic year.


Please note: You can only choose to do Economic History only if you start in September.

How to apply for this track:

  1. Go to Studielink
  2. Select ‘MA History’ and continue the application procedure
  3. When asked for a specialisation, select ‘Cities, Migration, and Global Interdependence’. Studielink automatically directs you to uSis (Leiden University’s online application portal) within 2 or 3 working days.

    Note: you cannot apply separately for the specialisation ‘Economic History’, as this track is part of the ‘Cities, Migration, and Global Interdependence’ specialisation.
  4. In the online application portal, Leiden University will let you know whether you qualify for automatic admission and will guide you through all necessary steps to complete your registration, as well as informing you about what you have to do after applying.

Note: you specifically need to mention your interest in the ‘Economic History’ programme in the Questionnaire.

Programme structure

The general programme of Economic History consists of the following elements:

  • Literature seminar
  • Research seminar
  • One or two optional courses (at Leiden University, or another university), or opt for an internship
  • Thesis Seminar
  • MA thesis and exam

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