Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Early Modernity in Europe
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials Individual 10-minute 'feedback tutorial' per written assignment submitted
Lecture 18 x 50 minute sessions
Seminars / Tutorials 2 x 2 hour sessions


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  30%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  70%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  30%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour supplementary (resit) examination  70%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be:
a) Familiar with a body of historical knowledge in the field of early modern Europe
b) Familiar with comparative perspectives on the history of modernity, and Europe's role in early globalisation
c) Able to read, analyse and reflect critically on secondary and primary texts
d) Able to gather and sift appropriate items of historical evidence
e) Able to work both independently and collaboratively, and to participate in group discussions (not assessed)

Brief description

Europe entered the 'Modern' world through a succession of landmark events and discoveries between 1450 and 1500: the invention of printing with moveable type in the Rhineland in the 1450s; the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople for Islam in 1453; the accidental landfall by Columbus in the West Indies in 1492. These events occurred within a broader cultural movement which had been under-way since the 14th century, and which we know as a period of re-birth or Renaissance. Slightly later, in 1517, Martin Luther kicked off a debate with the Papacy which eventually created the 'Reformation' of the western church, and two antagonistic confessions, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Together these events shaped a Europe which came to have recognisably 'modern' characteristics: warfare organised along ideological or commercial lines; a concerted quest for geographical and scientific 'discovery'; the closer definition of secular political rights; the justification of tyrannicide, and the first glimmerings of a universal franchise. These were recorded for us by increasing numbers of people who could read and write; and depicted in paintings of breathtaking realism and compelling perspective. Like our own modern world, the period was torn between impulses of the greatest humanity and compassion on the one hand, and by brutality and violence on the other. Religious wars gave birth to the attempts of philosophers and lawyers to elaborate effective systems of political arbitration. Witch hunts and crime waves gave rise to philosophical scepticism about the power of 'magic', and public disgust at the lives led by the poor and propertyless.


1. Introduction
2. The Facts of Life and Death
3. Early Modernity and the Sense of the Past
4. The Renaissance in Practice: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo
5. Erasmus of Rotterdam and Humanism
6. Anne Boleyn: Personality and Politics
7. Reflections on the Marriage of Ancient and Modern Wisdom: Michel de Montaigne
8. Political Theory and Political Engagement in the City State and Nation State: the
Life of Machiavelli
9. Luther, Zwingli and the Early Reformation
10. The Early Modern Witch Hunts
11. Jean Calvin and the Catholic Reformation
12. Family, Sex and Marriage
13. The Urban World
14. Early Modernity: The Female Experience
15. Local and Global Economies
16. Doctors and Patients: Early Modern Medicine
17. New Technologies and the Culture of Print
18. Utility, Civility and the Nature of Knowledge: Galileo
19. Utility, Civility and the Nature of Knowledge: the Royal Society
20. Reading Newton

Reading List

Recommended Text
Jean-Baptiste Duroselle (1990) Europe: A History of its Peoples (Chapters 11 & 12) Primo search John Hale (1993) The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6