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The European World - 1500-1720 - Introduction

'The European World' is a team-taught module.

Module Director

Dr Penny Roberts
Room: H316
Tel: (5)23411

'The European World 1500-1720' is a core module (counting for 1.5 units in finals), which all second-year history students take, and is also available to joint-degree students as an option (1 unit in finals). Core modules are designed to complement teaching in more specialised options by providing a broad international context for understanding historical developments, and to develop the ability to study and communicate (both orally and in writing) through a relatively intense programme of seminars, lectures and essay work.


This module is designed to provide a broad survey of European developments in the early modern period, extending the survey taken in Year 1 on 'The Making of the Modern World'. It complements the department's Part II options (which often focus on aspects of social history in particular national settings) by providing an overview of structures of European society in the early modern period, and by examining the main features of development and change in politics, religion, economy, and culture.


This module examines major themes in the political, religious, cultural, economic and social history of early modern Europe as well as paying attention to Europe’s encounter with non-European societies. It concentrates on several key aspects of the period: social and economic structures and changes; the Protestant and Catholic Reformations and their consequences; changes in elite and popular culture, up to the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution; European contacts with Asia and the Americas; problems of governance; and the development of ‘absolutism’. Particular national developments are examined (for example the Reformation in Germany, the British civil wars, the statecraft of Louis XIV), but these are placed in a broad and comparative context. A ‘skills week’ prepares students for the writing of extended essays and – if appropriate – fulfilling the language requirement.

Intended Learning Outcomes:

by the end of the module, students should be able:

a) to have further developed their study, writing and communication skills.

b) to assess critically and evaluate historical analysis and argument.

c) to have developed a basic understanding of the major social, economic, political, and cultural changes that took place in early modern Europe.

d) to recognise and evaluate points of comparison between different national political, social, economic and cultural systems.

e) to employ, where appropriate, electronic resources in the gathering of historical evidence, and construction of an historical argument.

f) to make critical use, where appropriate, of historical writing in a foreign language.