HIS42620 A Global History of Refugees

Academic Year 2022/2023

The central research question framing this course is: what has been the experience and reception of refugees across time and space since 1945? A related sub-question is how did notions of sanctuary, sovereignty and solidarity play out in refugee experiences, policy responses and societal debates? By providing a global history of refugees, this course intends to answer these crucial questions, which have real resonance for Irish, European and global society. In contrast to most state-centric views, this course will try to give a prominent voice to the experience of refugees and non-state actors, such as NGOs, smugglers and the public. After introducing the subject and outlining some of the main theories relating to these questions in the first weeks (such as why do people flee from their homes, who is a refugee, how do states and societies respond to the appearance of refugees?), we will then investigate and hear about what online, oral and physical sources are available. Subsequently we will concentrate on empirical case studies, including the plight facing Jewish refugees after the Second World War, Palestinian refugees’ encounters in the Middle East, Vietnamese boat people’s search for asylum in the 1970s and 1980s, the contrasting situations of Cubans and Haitians trying to reach the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, refuges from the Horn of Africa since the 1990s, the experiences of refugees in Ireland in recent decades and the refugee ‘crisis’ in Europe and the Middle East since 2015. Students will be expected to work with relevant primary sources (e.g. interviews, archival sources, memoirs, refugee art, etc.) for their research projects.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course students will be able:
- to understand how asylum has evolved since 1945
- to apply theories relating to forced migration to empirical case studies
- to analyse contemporary asylum debates from an historical perspective
- to compare and contrast Ireland and Europe’s experiences of asylum with other countries and continents
- to complete research project based in particular on primary source material.

Indicative Module Content:

The module addresses such topics as:
- Who is a refugee and what obligations do states and societies have to provide asylum?
- Sources and methods
- European refugees after 1945
- Palestinian refugees in the Middle East since 1948
- Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s and 1980s
- Cold War vs non-Cold War refugees in the Caribbean
- Refugees in East Africa
- The Irish experience
- The refugee ‘crisis’ on the Mediterranean

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:

This is a small-group, seminar-based module, taught through a two-hour weekly seminar. The seminar is focused on individual active/task-based learning by means of discussion and presentations. Advanced research and writing skills are developed through a presentation and a research essay at the end of semester. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Class participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: Selection and group presentation of a primary source Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: Presentation of research project Week 10 n/a Graded No


Essay: The research paper can be about any theme that relates to the course. The papers should be based on problem-oriented research using primary and secondary sources and be approximately 5000 words. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback is given individually and to the class, verbally and in writing, throughout the semester. Feedback on end-of-semester essays is given individually and to the class on drafts and essays plans before final submission, and by appointment after submission and grading.