Vrije Universiteit Summer School: Amsterdam in Global Capitalism: 1500-present

Summer School, 18 July - 1 August 2020

The Vrije Universiteit Summer School "Amsterdam in Global Capitalism: 1500-present" is back on the curriculum. From 18 July to 1 August, we welcome students from all over the world to come and spend two weeks in Amsterdam studying with an excellent group of teachers. Our special guest this year is Richard Drayton, professor of Imperial History at King's College and a leading expert on capitalism's historical intersections with slavery, colonialism and ecological degradation. Other contributors include Ulbe Bosma, Sabine Go, Marjolein 't Hart, Paul Mepschen, and the course is taught and coordinated by Pepijn Brandon. Fees, discounts and scholarships are available for those who apply early (before 15 March).


The framework of this course is the new scholarship on capitalism, that investigates the global, often violent dimensions of capitalist development, and looks at the role of “global cities” as key hubs within this. Since the development of capitalism is now considered part of a wider web of social relations, power structures, ecological processes, belief systems and cultural practices, we cover several centuries and many aspects of history: social, economic, business, political, cultural and environmental history as well as the history of war and slavery.

As a long-established centre of capitalism, Amsterdam is the perfect place to study this innovative approach in situ, and to look in greater depth at the relationship between the development of capitalism and the urban environment. We will address questions such as how the ups and downs of Amsterdam as a hotbed of capitalism affected the spatial, social and cultural development of the city and how the urban ambience influenced the role of Amsterdam in the capitalist world, especially in terms of city planning, social inequality, flows of migration and flows of finance. In doing so, we will engage with ongoing discussions among historians, social scientists and policy makers about the changing functions of “global cities”.

Active participation is an important aspect of this course, as you examine and critically assess key ideas, debates and methodologies in the field. Excursions to heritage sites related to Amsterdam’s history as the “heart of capitalism” will help you to place the subject in a historical and present-day context.