Universiteit Leiden

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Colonial and Global History (MA)

About the programme

During the one-year master’s programme in Colonial and Global History you will learn about the importance of a comparative perspective for understanding transnational processes such as imperialism, colonialism, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation.

The programme consists of an introductory literature course , two in-depth studies of one or more areas of interest, and an MA thesis, concluded by a final exam. The MA thesis work during the second semester is supported by a thesis seminar.

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 your programme.

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.

Optional Course
We also offer students the ability to take an Optional Course from a wide range of possibilities. These may comprise MA-courses offered by Leiden University and those offered by other universities. 


You conclude the programme by writing a MA-thesis. Students are guided in writing their thesis by thesis supervisors. Students are also expected to follow a thesis seminar, aimed at providing students with some additional support in the writing process. Upon graduation students sit for a final ceremony for which they defend their thesis and answer questions on additional literature. 

Leiden University offers a unique master’s specialisation in Maritime History.

Learn more about our Maritime History specialisation.

  • Seminars
  • Self-study
  • Internship options
  • Exams
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays, research papers
  • Oral presentations
  • Thesis

The one-year Master of Arts in History (study load 60 EC) aims to bring you state-of-the-art knowledge in your subject area of choice. You will pay specific attention to the analysis of historical process, the study of primary sources, conducting historical research, historiography and methodology.

The acquisition of advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts and the analysis of complex conceptual problems, and the ability to independently conduct high-quality scientific research are key goals of the programme.

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."

Michiel van Groesen

University Lecturer

Michiel van Groesen

"The Colonial and Global History track offers you the opportunity to discover the world at Leiden University. This track concerns the global circulation of people, goods, values and ideas during the early-modern and modern times. This MA allows you to study the past from 1500 to today. It is a diachronic programme and students are actively encouraged to make connections between the past and the present, colonial legacies and the globalized world we live in today. During the courses, we combine a global approach with the information that is available locally, so we will introduce you to heritage institutions in the Netherlands. In this programme, primarily sources play a key role and we also encourage you to go to the National Archives in The Hague for example."

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, please check the Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

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