Thematic Seminar Crime and Social Inequalities, 17th-19th centuries
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-GESB2204-CEH
Credits (ECTS)10
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; History;
dr. S.T.D. Muurling
Other course modules lecturer
dr. S.T.D. Muurling
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. S.T.D. Muurling
Other course modules lecturer
dr. S.T.D. Muurling
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2022
PER 3-PER 4  (30/01/2023 to 03/09/2023)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
After the successful completion of this course, you will
  • have gained:
    • knowledge of recent research in crime history
    • knowledge of the (social) history of crime and punishment between the 16th and 19th centuries
    • working knowledge of historical concepts related to social inequality, the historicity of those experiences and their historical workings
    • working knowledge of digital history approaches and digital (and physical) source collections relevant to the field
    • basic digital history skills such as the creation of a simple database
  • be able to:
    • independently find, select and process relevant literature and historiography on a historical topic
    • apply knowledge and insights gained from literature with regard to the theme of this course in your own historical research
    • search, select, contextualize and interpret - under the guidance of the lecturer - relevant source material in a methodologically sound manner;
    • formulate a relevant, well-defined research question within the theme of the course
    • find, select, contextualize and interpret digital and/or archival primary sources in a methodologically sound way
    • answer your research question within a well-written and clearly structures scholarly essay, complete with adequate annotation, in correct English or Dutch
    • report on your findings in a convincing presentation
    • provide constructive feedback on the work of your fellow students
    • use (peer) feedback to improve your own work
During the Thematic Seminar, students will work their way through a complete research cycle mapping the historiographical debate around a given topic, designing a research questions, analysing sources and literature, and present an interpretation based on a sound methodological framework. This presentation will take the form of a scientific paper in correct Dutch or English. The topic of the course closely mirrors the research interests of the teachers. Your paper will be part of your Writing Portfolio.

In recent years, the Black Lives Matter movement has powerfully highlighted the devastating effects of systemic inequities in criminal justice systems on individual lives and the fabric of society. Scholars point to the deep roots and long histories of this phenomenon, emphasizing that crime is and has always been a socio-political artifact: a social construct dependent upon what behaviours authorities choose to consider criminal and the ways in which they decide to process them. As a social construct, conceptualisations of crime and punishment changed significantly throughout the centuries, but they also differed from place to place and, importantly, varied for different parts of the population. Historically, criminal courts often emphatically took defendants’ personal background and social standing into account when rendering justice. Reputation, settledness, gender and other categories of social distinction therefore became matters of negotiation and contention.

In this course, we will examine how various subsections of society were differently impacted by historical systems of criminal justice and institutions of control between c.1600-1900. Who and under which circumstances bore the brunt of criminal courts’ rigour? And, turned around: what sort of evidence and support did different groups need to mobilise to avoid social exclusion?

In the course of an initial series of meetings, we will start with an examination of what we mean by ‘crime’ by familiarising ourselves with the scholarly debates about the developments of criminal courts, the administration of justice, and dominant patterns of crime and punishment between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. We then turn to various case-studies that highlight how people’s experiences before criminal courts could differ significantly according to the group to which they belonged. Case-studies include, but are not limited to gender, occupation and wealth status, and migration background. Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to the various (digital) approaches historians have employed to study these topics.

For their paper, students will examine a particular social group in the criminal justice system through their prosecution, punishment and/or legal position. These case-studies can be local (e.g., focussing on Arnhem), regional (e.g., Rijk van Nijmegen) or international (i.e., outside of the Netherlands, such as London or Surinam). Sources may be derived from criminal courts as well as other institutions within the same realm of control (e.g., work houses) and can be studied in a qualitative way using a micro-historical approach, quantitatively through existing datasets, or through a combination thereof.

Presumed foreknowledge
Admission to themed lectures in B2 and B3 is contingent on successfully completing the courses, which are part of the writing and research skills track: RADAr: Academic Language Proficiency (NB:before 2020-2021 the Language Proficiency was part of History of Globalization ór Tutorage), Tutorage and Study Skills, Writing History.
See the Education and Examination Regulations (EER) 2022-2023.

Exchange students: Only admitted if you are in a BA-degree program in History (USA: majoring in History).
Test information
Assignments and the final paper may be written in English or Dutch.
Required materials
To be announced
Secondary literature (articles and book chapters), source texts and source images will be announced on Brightspace.
The Dutch version may also be used (Geschiedenis schrijven! Wegwijzer voor historici, ISBN 9789462982291).
Title:Writing History! A companion for historians
Author:J. Kamp et al.
Publisher:Amsterdam University Press, 2018

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight30
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 4, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Test weight70
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 4, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Paper may be written in English or Dutch.

Paper kan in Engels of Nederlands geschreven worden.