Decolonizing Europe


Course Objective

Decolonizing Europe has both historical and methodological learning
objectives. After the course, participants...
1. Have a good understanding of the main approaches to the postwar
history of the European nation state and are able to situate leading
historians in the historiographical debate on decolonization and
2. Are able to critically review (both in writing and speaking) a
monograph and to develop, both orally and in writing an argued opinion
about the issue addressed by the author(s)
3. Have been challenged to reflect on the own ‘subject position’ and
explore the theme from various perspectives while acknowledging
different experiences with respect to European postcolonial society.

Course Content

The course focuses on the impact of European imperialism on the dynamics
of nation state formation within ‘Postwar Europe’.* While all around
the globe countries became independent, what did that mean for Europe
itself? Students will come across at least three developments that
played a major role in the repositioning of Europe in the international
arena after colonialism:
• The reordering of European national states in East and West and the
impact of the Cold War
• The changes within Europe and between Europe and the ‘Third World’ as
a result of decolonization.
• The gradual European integration process and, simultaneously, the
emergence of major ambiguities within separate nation states concerning
the concept of multicultural society.
The course investigates these developments with particular attention to
a better understanding of colonialism as a history with a deep influence
on notions of belonging, inclusion and exclusion with respect to
citizenship at national and European level. Against the backdrop of a
political history, this course will discuss how historians,
philosophers, activists, politicians, have approached this history
within a national, European or global frame of reference.
* Tony Judt, Postwar, A history of Europe since 1945. New York, 2005.

Teaching Methods

Two introductory lectures (week 1 and 2) supported by common reading
assignments, week 3 individual assignment to write a summary and discuss
a monograph selected from the course list or at your own suggestion,
followed by a guest lecture in week 4; as from week 5-7 intensive
sessions focusing at the topics addressed in the selected monographs. In
week 8 the course ends with a forum discussion organized by the

Method of Assessment

Mandatory: attendance of the seven plenary sessions and final forum
Grading elements:
1. pro-active role in class, including class notes or other prep.
assignments 30%;
2. Monograph: summary and discussion paper (2.000 words) 40%;
3. ppt. presentation and discussion in class about topics addressed in
the reviews 20%.
4. Contribution to final forum discussion 10%;
Instructions and criteria for the assessment of the summary and
discussion paper on a selected monograph will be included in the full
course description.
In order be able to finish the course, each grading element per se has
to be satisfactory. If failed, the paper can be re-submitted.

Entry Requirements

Students will need a sufficient background in contemporary history,
either at a general level, or specifically concerning the history of
their own country, region, continent of origin. For those with little
training in history, following at least two other courses in the general
History minor is a precondition for admission.


An extensive list will be published in the full course description. The
following titles will be used as common reference works:
- Elizabeth Buettner, Europe after Empire. Decolonization, Society, and
Culture (Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2015)
- Jan C. Jansen & Jürgen Osterhammel, Decolonization: A Short History
(Translated by Jeremiah Riemer Princeton, Princeton UP, 2017) (or German

Target Audience

As from the start the course will be at 300 level and require a
dedication to reading a lot. The course aims at History students in
their BA3-minor semester and at those students from other disciplines
who follow the general History minor-program. Other international
exchange students and students from other disciplines, University
colleges and VU-faculties with a sufficient level of historical
knowledge, can participate as well, after permission by the course

Additional Information

Full course title:
Decolonizing Europe - Perspectives on Post-WW2 State Formation and the
Cold War

Custom Course Registration

The maximum number of participants for this module is 25 students. Make sure that you register in time.

Recommended background knowledge

It is strongly advised to read Jansen/Osterhammel before class starts.

General Information

Course Code L_GCBAALG008
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator M.P. Groten
Examiner M.P. Groten
Teaching Staff M.P. Groten
drs. W.C. Manuhutu

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Lecture
Target audiences

This course is also available as: