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Themes in Early Modern History c.1450-c.1800 (HI992)

Directed by Professor Peter Marshall

Context of Module
Module Aims
Outline Syllabus
Intended Learning Outcomes
Illustrative Bibliography


Context of Module

This is a core module for the Early Modern History MA degree. It addresses key themes and historiographies, drawing on the expertise of a wide range of the early modernists at Warwick. Each session will be led by a different expert, ensuring that students are exposed to as many different viewpoints and approaches as possible. You will find a listing of early modern staff in the department here and some of their publications are included in the illustrative bibliography below. The module will cover the period c.1450-c.1800, and although much of it will focus on Britain and European countries it will also seek to place them in their wider global and colonial context.The module will help to prepare students for term 2 modules, which take a more thematic approach.


Module Aims

To widen and deepen students’ understanding of themes in the study of early modern history; to help students develop a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills of an historian of the early modern era; to help students hone their ability to formulate and achieve a piece of critical and reflective historiographical writing; to support students in developing the ability to undertake critical analysis; to help students develop the ability to formulate and test concepts and hypotheses.


Outline Syllabus

Week 1: IntroductionLink opens in a new windowPeter Marshall

Week 2: The State, Government and PoliticsLink opens in a new windowSarah Johanesen

Week 3: Early Modern Encounters: Travellers and Travel WritingAysu Dincer

Week 4: Cultural Turns: The History of Emotions - Natalie Hanley-Smith 

Week 5: Early Modern Material CultureSarah Johanesen 

Reading week

Week 7: The Reformations and Religious ChangePeter Marshall 

Week 8: The Public Sphere and Communicative PracticesLink opens in a new windowMark Knights

Week 9: Gender and SexualityLink opens in a new windowNatalie Hanley-Smith

Week 10: Conceptualising Early Modernity: A RecapitulationLink opens in a new windowPeter Marshall


Each seminar will address current historiographical debates as well as the skills and sources necessary to investigate them. We also have a companion moodle site for specific tasks like module feedback.

All MA students are strongly encouraged to attend History Department research seminars and expected to participate in those (co-)hosted by our 'Early Modern and Eighteenth Century Centre'. Many may also be interested in taking the skills training (palaeography, Latin for research) offered by the Renaissance Centre.


Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills of an historian of the early modern era;
  • the ability to formulate and achieve a piece of critical and reflective historiographical writing;
  • a capacity to undertake critical analysis;
  • the required skills to formulate and test concepts and hypotheses.


Illustrative Bibliography

NB: For availability of / access to resources see the library's HI992 Talis Aspire reading list 

P. Burke, What is Cultural History? (2nd edn, Cambridge, 2008)

Bernard Capp, England’s Culture Wars: Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649-1660 (2012)

Giancarlo Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration (Oxford UP, 2010).

William Doyle, The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Regime (Oxford, 2012)

Josef Ehmer, ‘Quantifying mobility in early modern Europe: the challenge of concepts and data’, Journal of Global History 6: (2011), 327-338.

Rebecca Earle, The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492-1700 (2012).

Mary Floyd-Wilson, English Ethnicity and Race in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge, 2003).

Laurence Fontaine, The Moral Economy: Poverty, Credit and Trust in Early Modern Europe (2014)

John-Paul Ghobrial, “Stories Never Told: The First Arabic History of the New World,” Journal of Ottoman Studies 40 (2012), 259-82.

Jack Goldstone, “The Problem of the Early Modern World,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 41 (1998), 249-84.

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

Joanna Innes and Mark Philp, Re-imagining Democracy in the Age of Revolutions: America, France, Britain, Ireland 1750-1850 (2013)

D. Jütte, The Strait Gate: Thresholds and Power in Western History (New Haven, 2015)

Steve Hindle, Alexandra Shepard and John Walter, eds., Remaking English Society: social relations and social change in early modern England (2013)

B. Kaplan, Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge MA, 2010)

Mark Knights, The Devil in Disguise: Deception, Delusion and Fanaticism in the Early English Enlightenment (2011)

Beat Kümin (ed.), A Cultural History of Food in the Early Modern Age (Oxford: Berg, 2012)

Noah Millstone, ‘Seeing Like a Statesman in Early Stuart England’ Past and Present (2014) 223 (1): 77-127.

Douglas North, John Joseph Wallis and Barry Weingast, Violence and Social Orders
A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (2013)

David Parker, Class and State in Early Modern France (2014)

Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance (2010)

Penny Roberts, Peace and Authority During the French Religious Wars c.1560-1600 (2013)

Giorgio Riello, Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World ( 2013)

Massimo Rospocher (ed) Beyond the Public Sphere. Opinions, Publics, Spaces in Early Modern Europe (2012)

Baki Tezcan, The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern World (Cambridge UP, 2012).

Jan de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (Cambridge, 2008).

Charles Walton, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (Oxford, 2009).

Phil Withington, Society in Early Modern England: The Vernacular Origins of Some Powerful Ideas (2010)



Assessment for this module comprises two elements:

1) 1500 word Review Essay (30% of module mark). Further details of assignment here.

2) 4500 word Essay (70% of module mark).

This essay can explore any aspect of the module. You will be encouraged to formulate your own question under the guidance of one of the tutors. This essay is normally based on one of the module’s weekly themes. Students interested in writing on different topics should consult with the module convenor well before the essay deadline.



Clio - The Muse of History.
US Capitol, Washington D.C.


Our HI992 channel on MS Teams for any module-wide communications and online seminars / activities can be found here.