In this session, we shall engage with debates about periodization and the concepts of modernity and early modernity. For this purpose, we will discuss a range of different approaches, some more empirical and some more theoretical, including a neo-Marxist perspective that emphasises patterns of exchange rather than novelties in production and consumption. Students should be prepared to discuss the following questions.
- Is the concept of modernity useful? If so, how?
- Does it make sense to separate out the ‘early modern’ from the 'modern'?
- Are the costs and benefits of using ‘early modernity’ the same as would be incurred by any periodization scheme or does ‘early modernity’ carry specific freight?
- Does Karatani’s structural approach to periodization in world history avoid or manifest some of the problems with the concept of modernity?
- Did early modernity mean similar / dissimilar things to different individuals and groups?
- R. Starn, ‘The Early Modern Muddle’, Journal of Early Modern History, 6: 3 (2002), 296-307.
Student Group Presentations
- E. Cameron, ‘Medieval and Modern’, in: C. Scott Dixon and B. Kümin (eds), Interpreting Early Modern Europe (London, 2019), 18-48 (text, sources, appendix)
- J. Goldstone, ‘The Problem of the Early Modern World’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 41 (1998), 249-84.
- K. Karatani, The Structure of World History (2013), author’s preface and chs. 7-9.
- A. Shryock and D. L. Smail, ‘History and the Pre’, American Historical Review 118: 3 (2013), 709-737.
- Phil Withington, Society in Early Modern England: The Vernacular Origins of Some Powerful Ideas (2010)
- Wolfgang Reinhard, ‘The Idea of Early Modern History’ in Michael Bentley (ed) Companion to Historiography (1997)
- ‘Early Modernities’ special issue of Daedalus 127 no 3 (1998) – available online
- Merry Wiesner-Hanks, ‘Do Women need the Renaissance?’, Gender and History (2008), 539-557
- Jerry Bentley, ‘Early Modern Europe and the Early Modern World’ in Charles Parker and Jerry Bentley (eds), Between the Middle Ages and Modernity (2007)
- Asa Briggs and Daniel Snowman (eds) Fins de Siècles: how centuries end, 1400-2000 (1996)
- Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (2006), chapter 5, ‘periodisation’.
Is early modernity best seen as a period of anxieties about religious and socio-cultural transformations? Hans Baldung Grien, 'The Witches' (c. 1510)