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A global revolution? Change and innovation in Afro-Eurasia (250 BC – AD 250)


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


From around 250 BC onwards we witness an unprecedented intensification of connectivity all across Afro-Eurasia. People in the period clearly were aware of what they were living through. In his World History, written in ca. 150 BC, Polybius (Histories 1.3) remarks: “From this point onwards history becomes one organic whole: the affairs of Italy and Africa are connected with those of Asia and of Greece, and all events bear a relationship and contribute to a single end”. The period 250 BC – AD 250 indeed set a decisive stage in the interconnection of the different Afro-Eurasian spheres. As a result, the oikumene is characterised by expanded geographies, heightened cultural interconnectedness, dramatic changes and enduring innovations more than ever before. Some even regard this period as Europe’s first Modernity.

In our course we will explore this defining and fascinating half millennium in World History in depth. Our entry point are the scholarly debates on the two concepts that have traditionally been used as explanans for most of this change and innovation: Hellenisation and Romanisation. Critically discussing these (Eurocentric) concepts, and exploring what they might still bring us, is an important exercise that goes to the very heart of the disciplines of Classics, Ancient History and Classical Archaeology - and of much of cultural history at large.

Throughout the course we will constantly confront approaches from Ancient History, ultimately based on the written sources, with approaches from Archaeology, ultimately based on the remains of material culture. Our case studies will take you from the western confines of the Roman Empire to China and from the Caucasus to North Africa. Fasten your seatbelts!

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3) The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

The student has acquired:

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following; in the specialisation Ancient History: unification processes in the Graeco-Roman World, 400 BC – 400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to both the history of mentality and socio-economic history.

  • 12) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following: in the specialisation Ancient History: the comparative method; application of socio-scientific methods; specialized source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

  • 13) Knowledge of and insight into the archaeology of Afro-Eurasia in Classical Antiquity, i.e., the main areas and sites referred to in the literature and in the lectures;

  • 14) Knowledge of and insight into globalisation and acculturation processes in Afro-Eurasia in Classical Antiquity;

  • 15) Understanding of the problems related to the notions of Hellenisation and Romanisation and their historical afterlife;

  • 16) Ability to critically assess specialist literature with regard to both historical and archaeological approaches and theoretical background;

  • 17) Ability to report such assessments in written format;

  • 18) Ability to independently set up and carry out a small research project.


The timetable is available on the MA History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (5000 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    *measured learning objectives: 1-7, 11-12, 13-18

  • Oral presentation
    *measured learning objectives: 7-10

  • Weekly written assignments
    *measured learning objectives: 7, 9, 16-17


  • Written paper: 50%

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Written assignments: 30%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

To be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. F.G. Naerebout