Decolonizing Europe: History and Memory

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Decolonizing Europe: History and Memory

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    European Studies

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Decolonizing Europe. History and Memory has both historical and methodological learning objectives.
    After the course, participants
    1. Understand the main approaches to the postwar history of the European nation-state and are able to situate leading historians in the
    historiographic debate on decolonization, postcolonialism and decoloniality;
    2. Understand how the course themes of decolonization and national histories in Europe play out in the institutional setting of museums and the construction of public discourse in present-day societies. They will be able to write a critical appraisal of museum exhibitions and
    collections and their role in European postcolonial society
    3. Are able to critically review (in writing and speaking) a historical monograph, a work of fiction or a public debate relevant to the course
    theme, and to develop an argued opinion about the issues at hand;
    4. 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.

    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.

    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 participants.

    Class participation (10%) ; In class presentations and discussions (20%); written assignment museum visit (20%) ; presentation of final
    written assignment (10%); final written assignment (40%)

    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.

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

    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 full 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 after permission by the course coordinator.

    The maximum number of participants for this module is 25 students.

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

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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