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The Enlightenment (HI174)

Module Convenor:   Dr Michael Bycroft (
Office:   H17, first floor of the Humanities Building
Telephone:   +44 (0)24 76150442 (internal extension 50442)
Seminar Tutors:  

Michael Bycroft (Thu 11-12pm)
Rita Dashwood (Thu 9-10am, Thu 12-1pm)
Natalie Hanley-Smith (Fri 11-12pm)
Ben Redding (Thu 4-5pm)



Students on a visit to the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum



This 30 CATS first-year interdisciplinary option module will introduce students to the Enlightenment, a movement of ideas c.1650-c.1800 that has been seen as laying the foundations of modernity. The Enlightenment embraced science, religion, politics, economics, exploration, collecting, literature, print, morality, international relations, race, sexuality and art. It affected much of Europe but also Europe's colonies, and it shaped the British, American and French revolutions. It helped to forge the very idea of Europe and Europeans, though it did so in interaction with other polities and peoples. The Enlightenment 'project' sought to rid the world of what it saw as superstition and ignorance and to replace them with reason and progress, a project that remains as controversial today as it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

This module is delivered by a team of lecturers that reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of the Enlightenment itself. Lecturers are drawn from within the History department but also from the departments of English and Comparative Literary studies, Art History, French, German and Law. No prior knowledge of the period is necessary (we know that it will be very new to most students) and the module will complement "Making of the Modern World (HI153)" which begins with a week on the Enlightenment. It will also help prepare History students for their second year early modern module, and for their work in historiography.

Students taking the module will be offered the opportunity to make a field trip, to the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum (itself a creation of the Enlightenment's desire to collect and order knowledge).

Each week's specific reading is available in digital form on the Lectures and Seminars list together with designated secondary sources. We strongly recommend reading a short secondary piece prior to the lecture each week, as a way of ensuring that you come to the lecture with some sense of the issues for that week. See also the Bibliography for further material on each of the areas of the course.