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Seminar Group 16

Tutor: Dr Benjamin Redding


Office: H3.06

Office Hours: Monday 11-12; Tuesday 3-4

Seminar Time and Location: Fridays 2-3, H4.02

Students: Lucy Bonnamy, James Butler, Catherine Chan, Matthew Eatough, Olivia Gallogly-Clements, George Griffiths, Rachel Hutchinson, Michael Inkpen, Saba Janabi Sardroud, Amber Jones, Arthur King, Aakash Patel, Ellie Peart, Elizabeth Penwill, Neyat Solomon Zerabruk. 

European World
Term 3 Schedule


Week 1 (22-28 April)

22-23 April – bank holidays

Wednesday 24 April - Deadline for EW summative essay

Lecture – Thursday 25 April – Europe and the World

Seminar: Friday 26 April (groups 13-16) – Conclusions

Week 2 (29 April-5 May)

Lectures: Tuesday 30 April – Exams Dos & Don’ts; Thursday 2 May – Panel session

Seminar: Friday 3 May - Revision seminar.

Week 3: (6-12 May)

6 May – bank holiday

Seminar: Friday 10 May (groups 13-16) – (optional drop-in sessions): 2-3, H4.02.

Term 3

Week 2: Revision Session

In this final seminar (with the exception of the drop-in session) we will be looking at exam planning and structuring. We will also reflect on some of the key themes of the module. In preparation, I would like you all to write an essay plan (1 A4 page in size) on one of the following questions:

1. (2018) Is ‘Europe’ a useful term of analysis for the early modern period?
2. (2018) ‘“Early modern” is an artificial term, used for valid reasons’. Discuss.
3. (2016) Was early modernity a period of progress?

In addition to this, if you haven’t already, please can everyone completed the Moodle module feedback form available here.

Week 1 - Conclusions

Welcome back! In our final seminar before revision begins, we will be thinking about the changes that unfolded in the period, and the general themes of the course.

Our main focus will be on drawing together some of the themes from the course in an attempt to determine what the most significant changes of the period were, and, consequently, whether it is right or useful to describe it as 'early modern'. I understand that many of you will be busy with your summatives/revision, with this in mind, the readings below are recommended for revision, but are not compulsory:

Questions to consider:

  • What was the single most significant change in early modern Europe?
  • How 'modern' was early modern Europe?
  • What was it to be ‘early modern’?

Term 2

Week 1 - The Political Landscape

Welcome back! This week we begin to look at politics in early modern Europe by considering the political landscape of early modern states. For this week, you have two assigned tasks. First, everyone is to read:

  1. Steve Hindle and Beat Kumin, 'Centre and Periphery' in the European World handbook.
  2. Stéphane van Damme and Janet Dickinson, 'Courts and Centres', ibid.

Following this, we will discuss and compare the differences in state political constructs. Please research your assigned state (below), and try to uncover to the best of your abilities how the state’s political framework operated. I have recommended sources for your use, but feel free to use the wider reading list if you prefer:

1) Valois France: Lucy Bonnamy, James Butler, Catherine Chan, Matthew Eatough, Olivia Gallogly-Clements.

2) The Habsburg Empire: George Griffiths, Rachel Hutchinson, Michael Inkpen, Saba Janabi Sardroud, Amber Jones.

  • Henry Kamen, Spain’s Road to Empire: The Making of a World Power 1492-1763 (2002).
  • J. H. Elliot, Spain and its World, 1500-1700 (1989), chapters 4 and 7.
  • Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II (1998).
  • H. G. Koenigsberger, ‘The Statecraft of Philip II’, EHQ, 1 (1971).

3) The Dutch Republic: Arthur King, Aakash Patel, Ellie Peart, Elizabeth Penwill, Neyat Solomon Zerabruk.

For those of you interested in early modern British history, you may be interested in comparing these styles of governance with Britain at the time. For example, see the following debate:

When preparing for the seminar, please consider:

  • What were the defining characteristics of early modern politics?
  • What were the driving forces and main instruments of European state formation?
  • How did Republican regimes differ from other forms of government?
  • What was the role of the nobility in the operation of early modern states?
  • Can political infrastructure account for the rise or decline of states?
Term 2 Week 2 - The People and Politics

This week we will be considering whether ordinary people were able to play any role in politics. Please read:

  1. Bernard Capp, 'Riot and Rebellion', in The European World coursebook.
  2. 'Breaking and Entering' in Wayne Te Brake's Shaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics (1998).

Finally, research your assigned rebellion, and come prepared to discuss the causes, events and consequences of your rebellion:

  • Wyatt’s Rebellion (1554) – Lucy
  • Ketts Rebellion (1549) – James
  • The Pilgrimage of Grace (1536-37) – Catherine
  • The Amicable Grant (1525) – Matthew
  • The Western Rebellion (Prayer Book Rebellion), 1549 – Olivia
  • The Fronde (1648-53)– George
  • The Catalan Revolt (1640-59) – Rachel
  • The Affair of the Placards (1534) –Neyat
  • The Revolt of the Comuneros (1520-21) –Michael
  • The Dutch War of Independence (the Dutch Revolt), 1568-1648 –Saba
  • The Defenestration of Prague (1618) –Amber
  • The Naples Revolt (1647) –Arthur
  • The Portuguese Revolution (1640) -Aakash
  • Danzig Rebellion (1575-77) -Ellie
  • Revolt of Ghent (1539) -Elizabeth

For those of you who have been assigned an English rebellion, I strongly recommend looking at Fletcher & MacCulloch's Tudor Rebellions.

With your readings, consider:

  • What were the points of contact between rulers and ruled in the early modern period?
  • Would you characterize the relationship between centres and periphery as one of co-operation or conflict?
  • Was there a right of resistance, and what forms of popular protest were there?
  • What is a rebellion?
  • How much of an obstruction was religion to state reform?
  • How radical was popular protest?
  • How successful was popular revolt?

Week 3 - Early Modern Empires

In this new addition to the module, this week will explore the characteristics of early modern empires both within Europe, and globally. We will consider the extent to which aspiring early modern European states were influenced by non-European empires. In preparation for this seminar, please read:

  1. S. Subrahmanyam, ‘A Tale of Three Empires: Mughals, Ottomans, and Habsburgs in a Comparative Context’, Common Knowledge 12.1 (2006): 66-92.
  2. C.K. Woodworth, ‘Ocean and Steppe: Early Modern World Empires’, Journal of Early Modern History 11.6 (2007): 501-518

Then listen to BBC Radio 4 'In Our Time' podcast: 'The Siege of Vienna'

With your readings, consider:

  • What were the characteristics of early modern empires?
  • How different were early modern empires?
  • What challenges did early modern empires pose to their metropoles?
  • What effect did early modern empires have on the colonised?
  • How did European empires compare to Asian empires?
  • What were the challenges facing rulers of early modern empires?
  • Which factors contributed to the rise and decline of empires?

Week 4 - Race and Slavery

This week we explore the evolution of racial attitudes in early modern Europe. We will also address the development of slavery across this period, especially in its connections to empire. In preparation, please read:

Also Saba and Elizabeth will prepare a short (five minute) talk on a reading of his choice relating to this theme.

During your reading consider:

  • How and why are racial attitudes evolving in the Early Modern period?
  • Why are Africans enslaved in the Americas?
  • How important was religion in determining European attitudes towards other peoples?
Term 2 Week 5 - Absolutism and Warfare

We conclude our survey of early modern politics by considering state centralization, absolutism and the impact of war. Our main focus will be on absolutism, its limitations, and its relationship with military developments. As a slight change from the traditional western European focus, I have included readings on Denmark and Russia.

In preparation for the seminar please read the following:

  1. First, either N. Henshall, The Myth of Absolutism (1992), scan of ch 2. 'Louis XIV Reassessed' or Nicholas Henshall, ‘The Myth of Absolutism’, History Today, 42 (1992).
  2. Second, read Gunner Lind, ‘Revolutionary Absolutism and the Elites of the Danish Monarchy in the Long Seventeenth Century’ in Friedeburg & Morrill (eds.), Monarchy Transformed: Princes and their Elites in Early Modern Western Europe (2017).
  3. Finally, if you have the time, I would like you to read Michael C. Paul, ‘The Military Revolution in Russia, 1550-1682’ The Journal of Military History, 68 (2004).

If you would like to find out more about Peter the Great and the creation of St. Petersburg, then listen to:

Furthermore, a broader exploration of the military revolution debate is available here:

Also James and Neyat will each prepare a short (five minute) talk on a reading of their choice relating to this theme.

Consider when doing your reading:

  • Was absolutism really a ‘myth’?
  • How comparable were absolutist monarchs?
  • To what extent was Louis XIV the model for European absolutist monarchs?
  • How ‘revolutionary’ were military developments in early modern Europe?
  • What was the relationship between military expansion and the rise of absolutism?
Term Two Week Seven – Communication and Popular Culture

We begin our thinking on early modern culture by considering communication and its importance to understanding popular cultures. In particular we're going to discuss the print 'revolution'.

There are two debates that I would like you to look at in preparation for this week (the 'print revolution' debate and ‘the Dilemma of Popular History’).

Please read:

  1. First, Elizabeth Eisenstein, 'An unacknowledged revolution revisited', The American Historical Review, 107 (2002), pp. 87-105.

And the subsequent discussion of this article:

2. Second, the debate between Gerald Strauss and William Beik: 'The Dilemma of Popular History', P&P , 132 (1991), Beik debate and Strauss reply in P&P, 141 (1993).

  1. Finally, take a look at either the English Broadside Ballad Archive or Early English Books Online for some examples of early modern popular print.

Also Olivia and Amber will prepare short (five minute) talks on a reading of their choice relating to this theme.

When preparing for the seminar please consider:

  • Is it useful to distinguish 'popular' from 'elite' culture?
  • Popular culture, or popular cultures?
  • Was there a 'print' revolution?
  • How did print interact with manuscript and oral cultures?
  • How did print change people's access to information and knowledge in early modern Europe?
  • To what degree did changes in communication affect different social groups?

This week we continue our theme of cultural history by considering the Renaissance.

1. As an introduction to the topic, some of you may be interested in:

  • Humfrey Butters' chapter 'The Renaissance' in The European World handbook
  • Luca Molà's chapter 'Arts and Society', ibid.
  • BBC Radio 4 'In Our Time' podcast on 'Paganism in the Renaissance' (also downloadable on iTunes).

2. Please read one, or more, of the following:

3. Next, I would like you all to find a source from the Renaissance that you believe could have influenced cultural developments. This could be a piece of artwork, a Renaissance text, architecture, scientific work or even music! Come prepared to discuss your source in class (if it is an image, it would be helpful for you to have a copy of it):

  • What it is?
  • Its writer/designer/artist/composer etc?
  • Its patron (if it has one)?
  • Its possible audience?
  • Its purpose?
  • Its impact on Renaissance culture?
  • When during the Renaissance was it produced?
  • Where was it produced/based?

Also Catherine and Ellie will prepare a short (five minute) talk on a reading of their choice relating to this theme.

Come prepared to discuss the following:

  • Was the Renaissance a movement or a period?
  • 'More pagan than Christian'. Is this a fair judgement of the Renaissance?
  • What were the aims of humanist education and how did it spread across Europe?
  • Who had a Renaissance?
  • Was Renaissance art simply a tool for enhancing the images of Europe's ruling elite?
  • In what ways can a focus on visual culture and the arts enhance our understanding of early modern change?
Term 2 Week 9 - Intellectual and Technological Change

This week we will be thinking about the Scientific Revolution and technical developments. Please read:

  1. Claudia Stein, 'The Scientific Revolution', in The European World handbook.

Then read what you can of one (or more) of the following:

Finally, take a look at some of the fascinating illustrations in Vesalius's De Humanis Corpori Fabrica(1543).

Arthur will present a short 5 minute talk on an article of his choice connected to this week's theme.

During your reading consider the following:

  • Was there a 'Scientific Revolution' in early modern Europe?
  • How far did perceptions of the physical and natural world change in this period?
  • How difficult was it to change traditional perceptions of the shape and working of the physical world in this period?
  • To what extent was intellectual change dependent on social and economic developments in the period?

Week 10 - The Early Enlightenment

In our final week of the term, we will be discussing the early Enlightenment and ideas of ‘modernity’ at the end of this period. In preparation:

  • First, read one of the introductory texts on the Enlightenment. Read EITHER Colin Jones, 'Enlightenment', in the European World textbook OR Norman Hampson 'The Enlightenment' in Euan Cameron (ed.), Early Modern Europe (1999).

Lucy will provide a short 5 minute talk on a reading of her choice related to the Enlightenment theme

Questions to consider:

  • How 'modern' was early modern Europe by the early eighteenth century?
  • What is meant by 'the early enlightenment'?
  • What was it to be ‘early modern’?
  • How did perceptions of 'Europe' and European identities change in the early enlightenment?
  • How connected is the early Enlightenment with those cultural movements that we have previously student (Renaissance, Scientific Revolution)?
  • How ‘new’ was the Enlightenment?
  • Did a public sphere exist in early modern Europe?

Term one readings available here