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Introduction: Europe and the World c. 1450


This is an introductory and orientation seminar. Tutors will explain the rationale of the module, the expectations on students and the assessment requirements. Through group consideration of the seminar questions below, there will be an opportunity to attempt to form a broad mental 'map' of the conditions pertaining in Europe and the wider world in the later fifteenth century, as well as an opportunity to ask any preliminary questions. Matters will inevitably be very broad and sketchy at this stage, but we will try to focus an understanding of things to look out for in the weeks to come.



  • Why is historical periodization such a difficult task? When does ‘early modernity’ begin, and why?
  • Which were the significant ‘powers’ in Europe, and in the wider world, towards the end of the fifteenth century? What were the interests and objectives of their rulers?
  • How can we describe the economic system at the end of the Middle Ages?
  • How was the Church in Western Europe organized c.1500? What was the role and significance of the papacy?



Map of Europe, c. 1500



Butters, Humfrey, ‘Europe in 1500’, and Gerritsen, Anne and Anthony McFarlane, ‘Beyond Europe c. 1500’, in Beat Kümin (ed.), The European World (3rd ed, 2018), pp. 13-22, 161-70



Cameron, Euan, ‘Editor's Introduction’, in his Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1999)

Scribner, R. W., ‘Understanding early modern Europe’, Historical Journal 30 (1987) [review article]

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (Cambridge, 2006), chap. 1, ‘Europe in the World of 1450’, pp. 15-42



Brady Jr, H. Oberman & J. Tracy (eds.), Handbook of European History, 1400-1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation(2 vols, 1994-5) [available as an e-book]

J.B. Collins & K. Taylor (eds.), Early modern Europe: issues and interpretations (2004) [a reader of key texts, available as an e-book]

Cook, The Longman Handbook of Early Modern Europe(2001)

Cook & P. Broadhead, The Routledge Companion to Early Modern Europe 1453-1763(London, 2006)

Dewald (ed.),Europe 1450 to1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World (London, 2004) [available as an e-book]

Fletcher, The Longman Companion to Renaissance Europe, 1330-1590(1999)

Greengrass, Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648 (2014)

R. Hale, Renaissance Europe 1480-1520(1971)

G. Koenigsberger, Early Modern Europe, 1500-1789 (1987)

Koenigsberger & G. Mosse, Europe in the Sixteenth Century(new edn, 1989)

Konnert, Early Modern Europe(2006)

Peter Linehan and Janet Nelson eds., The Medieval World (2003)

MacKenney, Sixteenth-Century Europe(1993)

Merriman,A History of Modern Europe, Vol. 1: from the Renaissance to the Age of Napoleon(2nd edn, 2004) SLC

Nicholas,The Transformation of Europe, 1300-1600(1999) SLC

Pettegree, Europe in the Sixteenth Century(2002)

Pettegree, 'Introduction'to The Reformation World(London, 2000) (ebook)

Porter & M. Teich (eds), The Renaissance in National Context(1992)

Sangha and J. Willis, Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources (London: Routledge, 2016) [available as an e-book]