Universiteit Leiden

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Institute for History


The combination of global questions and a wide range of local sources characterizes the Leiden University Institute for History.

Global questions, local sources

What were the globalizing effects of the Roman empire? How did transnational religious networks forge early modern identities? How did populist ideas and practices spread between nation states since the 19th century? How did global connections influence political and cultural developments in different parts of the world? Why did culturally diverse migrations have such different effects on cities throughout the world? Such questions can only be answered by looking at long term developments within their specific historical contexts. It is exactly this combination of global questions and a wide range of local sources that characterize the Leiden University Institute for History. 

Interconnected world

The broad temporal and spatial Leiden University expertise offer a unique combination to understand the current globalized and interconnected world. From the Roman empire to the recent emergence of China as a global player, societies and civilizations have influenced each other through trade networks, the mobility of scholars and missionaries and more recently through colonial expansions, massive intercontinental migrations, and the emergence of transnational institutions. These global interactions partly determined political, economic and cultural developments, not only in Asia, Africa and the Americas, but also in Europe. Dutch history offers a most interesting lens to understand these processes. From the late 16th century onwards, intensive trade contacts with Asia, Africa and the Americas, a unique decentralized political system, advanced economic institutions and a vibrant intellectual and art scene made the Low Countries into one of the most dynamic centers during the first round of globalization. Although the Netherlands gradually lost their hegemony, it remained a remarkable open society, both in economic, cultural and political respect. 

Unique research environment

The combination of deep knowledge of global interactions and of specific localities, regions and states (in the Netherlands, Europe and beyond) has made Leiden into a strong and unique center for historical studies. Rooted in a thorough study of local sources worldwide it is the home of specialists on virtually all regions in the world, who study themes like political en memory cultures, state formation and social movements, regional and national identities, intellectual and merchant networks, warfare, criminality, urbanization, migration, and globalization. These themes are studied with a mix of comparative, connective and entangled approaches, combining qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Finally the Department greatly profits from the unique research environment of the Leiden Faculty of the Humanities, which hosts a wealth of expertise in fields including philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics, and area studies, covering practically the entire world. 

International debates and networks

The overall research profile of the Institute for History is divided into six research programmes, that encompass the last two millennia, large parts of the world (Europe, Africa, the Americas and parts of Asia) and which represent the main political, cultural, social and economic expertise of the staff members. As such the Leiden University Institute for History plays a leading role in (inter)national debates and networks and is home to an important number of externally funded research projects. 

Research programmes

The research of the Institute for History is subdivided into six research programmes:

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