Discover the future of the past

History matters

The master’s degree course in history at the VU trains you to become a professional historian. The course is broad-based and also allows you to specialise in a particular area of history. All students follow a number of basic subjects. In addition you choose the broad master’s curriculum or one of the specialisations. If you decide to follow the broad master’s curriculum then you make your own choice from the other subjects offered. 

Each specialisation is based on one of the chairs of the History Department. The progress of your study is personally mentored by a member of the academic staff. Some specialisations are completely in English; others are in Dutch, but with some lectures in English.

In addition to the broad master’s course, the master’s degree course in history offers the following specialisations:


Knowledge has grown into one of the most defining elements of contemporary Western societies. Agricultural and industrial societies have turned into knowledge economies. We have ‘discovered’ new kinds of knowledge - emotional intelligence in the individual and artistic knowledge for the creative industries. The digital revolution challenges us to cope with information overload and helps us develop new ways of knowledge dissemination and visualisation.

These defining shifts challenge us to study the history of knowledge formation and knowledge economies. What did people consider knowledge in the past? How was knowledge produced and circulated? What is the power of knowledge, and how does it relate to its moral and economic value?
This specialisation focuses on the history of knowledge practices and their relation to modern times. Students learn to analyse changing conceptions and constructions of knowledge from historical and comparative interdisciplinary perspectives. Students will deal with issues that are extremely relevant to present-day knowledge societies - certification of knowledge, the role of gatekeepers, plagiarism and embodied and artistic knowledge. The specialisation also covers digital knowledge.

Chair of Cultural History: Prof. dr. Inger Leemans

Cultures of Knowledge Course Programme

Global Social History focuses on the ways people lived the great global changes from the fifteenth century until the present. How did people cope with big changes such as the growth of overseas trade, industrialisation, state formation, urbanisation and climate change? Global Social History concentrates particularly on the relationship between these great changes and flows of people, goods, ideas and knowledge. It deals with the rise and development of maritime empires, the history of intercontinental trade and of free and forced labour, the history of relations between humans, water and the natural environment and the history of the globalisation of knowledge. The Atlantic world is a special area of attention.

In this specialisation, we also connect these subjects with major debates in and about Global History, especially about the causes of inequality in wealth and power. Geographical information systems and digital databases in the field of economic and social history are important instruments for research. 

Chair of Economic and Social History: Prof. dr. Karel Davids

Medicine is an outstanding example of a scientific discipline that reflect historical developments. Fundamental changes in the vision on how the human body functions and on the nature and causes of illnesses can often be related to socio-cultural transitions. In Medical History 1 and 2 such changeovers in the medical domain are discussed and analyzed against the background of contemporary debates. 

More info

This specialisation focuses on human mobility in the past and the present. We look at history as the history of a mobile world in which migration, travel, tourism and pilgrimage have always been central to human interactions and identities, and link that history to contemporary political debates on migration, nation, ethnicity and diaspora.

We focus in particular on industrial, colonial and postcolonial mobilities in the modern era and consider movements between Western industrialised countries and the post/colonial periphery – including Africa, East and Southeast Asia -- as well as movements between Asia and Africa.
In addition to history, we draw on concepts and approaches from anthropology to understand how individual choices about migration and their consequences are shaped by and reflect broader social processes and cultural frameworks. In addition to archival sources, students will acquire a basic notion of field research and draw on online sources such as diasporic social media.

Chair of History and Anthropology: Prof. dr. Pál Nyiri

Deze specialisatie gaat over vormen van machtsuitoefening en de legitimiteit daarvan in de moderne en contemporaine geschiedenis (1800-nu). Je bestudeert keerpunten in de geschiedenis van staten en wereldmachten, zoals koloniale rijken, het Derde Rijk en de Verenigde Staten. Ook komen internationale organisaties zoals de Verenigde Naties en de Europese Unie aan bod. Centraal staan de verschillende perspectieven op machtsvorming, legitimiteit en bestuur, vanuit individuen, groepen of organisaties. Sommige keerpunten in de contemporaine geschiedenis waren vreedzaam; betrokkenen traden de toekomst hoopvol tegemoet. Maar we zien ook geweld en rechteloosheid. En vaker nog speelden alle twee tegelijk.
In deze specialisatie verdiepen we ons ook in de actualiteit en wijze waarop het verleden in het heden doorwerkt. Er is aandacht voor gender, diversiteit en  verschillende disciplines –  naast politieke geschiedenis o.a. politicologie en politieke filosofie. Ook worden diverse bronnen bestudeerd: schriftelijke, visuele, materiële, mondelinge. Het gebruik van nieuwe media en digitaliseerde bronnen in onderzoek en debat wordt gestimuleerd.  

Leerstoel Politieke Geschiedenis: Prof. dr. Susan Legêne.
Religion and society mutually influence each other: important aspects of society find their expression in religion, while religion helps to determine the character of society. In the course of history the role and scope of religion in society fluctuate, and neither society nor religion is static or uniform.

This specialisation focuses on a European and Middle Eastern line in history that includes the religions of Antiquity, Judaism, Christianity and Islam up to the present. Using written sources as well as material culture, we study such subjects as religion, ethnicity and politics, religious minorities in the Middle East, the gradual separation of Church and State during the western Middle Ages, globalisation, migration and religion, the rise of private alongside public forms of worship, dissent and devotion during and after the Reformation and modernity and the twin reactions to it - secularism and fundamentalism. It is also possible to focus specifically on the history of Protestantism in the Netherlands. This specialisation seeks to combine a variety of historical approaches, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, philology and digital humanities. 

Chair of Religion and Chair of Ancient History: Prof. dr. Fred van Lieburg and prof. dr. Bas ter Haar Romeny. 

Study programme

The master’s degree course in history has a unique character due to the combination of a broad common curriculum and the specializations. Together students follow an introductory core subject, two research subjects and the subjects ‘History and Theory’ and ‘Key works in Contemporary Historical Thought’. The subjects of the broad master’s course offer a basis from which you can specialize. The introductory course and the course ‘History and Theory’, given in the same period, ensure a common basis from which to progress, regardless of your disciplinary background. ‘Key works in Contemporary Historical Thought’ helps you to develop your specialization. In the research courses you examine a specific historical problem in depth and develop your research skills. 

If you follow the broad master’s degree curriculum you also choose for yourself from the other courses on offer. It is also possible to do an internship. Those who specialize, in addition to the general subjects, also take research lectures on their specialization. Here too you can do an internship instead of a course. You choose the subject of your master’s thesis from the field of your specialization. For the broad master’s degree a choice from all specializations is possible. You become acquainted with new methods of the e-Humanities and are brought regularly into contact with the working practices of historians. The choice of subject for your master’s thesis is free, as long as there is a suitable supervisor available.

History courses in study guide.

Master of Arts
A master’s title in History make you an attractive employment prospect because you have broad-based knowledge and have developed an analytical way of reading and writing. Among other areas you could work for government institutions, business or international institutions. Many historians do not enter the business world but go into politics or journalism. In addition, after a further specialised year of master’s courses, you could find a position in teaching or research. 

With a master’s title in History you can embark on PhD research at a university or research institute. If you aim at an academic career you could also consider following the two-year research master’s degree course in History. This master’s degree course trains you specifically as a (university) researcher.

Overview History

Language of instruction

English, Dutch


1 year

Application deadline

1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.

Study type


Admission requirements

Read more about admission and application.

Field of Interest

Art, Culture and History

Dutch students

Met een bachelordiploma Geschiedenis word je rechtstreeks toegelaten tot de master Geschiedenis. Toelating op basis van een ander, verwant bachelordiploma is ter beoordeling van de Toelatingscommisie. Denk hierbij bijvoorbeeld aan Europese studies, Antropologie, Politicologie, Cultuurwetenschappen en Religiewetenschap. 

Wie toegelaten wil worden tot de master Geschiedenis moet zich voor 1 juni aanmelden via Studielink voor de opleiding Geschiedenis (60 studiepunten). 

Na aanmelding in Studielink ontvang je een e-mail met je inlogcodes voor VUnet (VU studentenportal). In VUnet rond je je aanmelding af. Vul bij het veld specialisatie de gekozen specialisatie in.

 Daarnaast moet je de volgende documenten per email sturen aan de Toelatingscommissie (toelating.fgw@vu.nl):

NB: Het indienen van deze documenten geldt alleen als je geen student bent van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen van de Vrije Universiteit.

Je verzoek tot toelating tot het masterprogramma wordt vervolgens door de toelatingscommissie van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen in behandeling genomen. Als de toelatingscommissie besluit dat je eerst een premasterprogramma moet volgen voordat je toelaatbaar bent, krijg je daarover bericht. Als je rechtstreeks toelaatbaar bent tot de opleiding, ontvang je hier bericht over van Studielink.

Als je een student bent met een afgeronde, verwante HBO-opleiding zoals de tweedegraads lerarenopleiding Geschiedenis, dan kun je niet direct instromen in de master. Je moet eerst een premaster van maximaal een jaar volgen. In alle gevallen kan met dit programma, dat vastgesteld wordt door de examencommissie, uitsluitend in september gestart worden.

Het is verplicht deel te nemen aan een assessment voor je kunt beginnen met de premaster. Heb je een eerstegraadsakte (MO-B) Geschiedenis? In dat geval kun je, na goedkeuring van de Toelatingscommissie, wel direct worden toegelaten tot de master. Je hoeft dan ook niet mee te doen aan het assessment. Kijk op vu.nl voor meer informatie over het premasterassessment.

Je kunt je tot uiterlijk 1 juni aanmelden via Studielink voor de premaster Geschiedenis. Kies in Studielink eerst 'Bachelor of andere niet master opleidingen' en daarna de premaster. Na aanmelding in Studielink ontvang je een e-mail met je inlogcodes voor VUnet (VU studentenportal). 

In VUnet rond je je aanmelding af. Vul bij specialisatie premaster Geschiedenis in. Daarnaast moet je de volgende documenten per email sturen aan toelating.fgw@vu.nl

Zodra er een toelatingsverklaring afgegeven wordt, ontvang je hier bericht over van Studielink. Deze toelatingsverklaring wordt afgegeven door de Toelatingscommissie van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen.

Opleidingsdirecteur (voor vakinhoudelijke voorlichting en advies in de master)

Prof.dr. Fred van Lieburg

Je bent van harte welkom op één van onze voorlichtingsactiviteiten. Meer informatie vind je ook in de brochure.

Medewerkers Geschiedenis

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. 

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s programme History, specialization in Cultures of Knowledge, specialization in Global Social History (15 – 21 century), specialization in Migration and Mobility (History and Anthropology, 19 – 21 century) and specialization in Religion and Society from Antiquity up to Today 

The Master’s History is designed for students with an academic Bachelor’s in history. You may also be accepted if you have an academic Bachelor’s in other disciplines of the Humanities (including theology or philosophy) or in anthropology or sociology, with a significant historical interest, apparent from a major or specialization equal to a minimum of 30 ECTS. 

For international students the level of studied academic theory needs to be based on the course description, literature list and sample of academic writing, due to a lack of distinction between applied and academic universities abroad. 

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a  full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities: 

TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).  IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5). 
Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C. 

Please refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements regarding the English language test.

If you have read the admission criteria below and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents) 
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records 
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education 
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education 

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information about;
Tuition fees


For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:
Irena Paap
t +31 (20) 59 85252
E admissionsfh@vu.nl