Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

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

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 4 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour supplementary (resit) examination  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of a body of historical knowledge relating to early modern Europe
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of 'early modernity' and how it has been interpreted.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of Europe's role in early globalisation
4. Demonstrate an understanding of the range of primary and secondary sources which may be utilised by historians to study Europe in the early modern period.

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.


The first lecture will provide an introduction to the concept of early modernity, explain the rationale of the module, and run though the administrative aspects of the module. The remaining body of lectures is divided into five sections. In the first, ‘Foundations: Continuity or Change’, the basic features of life and death in modern European society (the demographic foundations) are established, and the role of the past in shaping that society is explored. The second section turns to one of the great movements of the early modern period, the Renaissance. This is investigated from a range of angles, such as art and architecture, intellectual thought and Humanism, and political theory. Running alongside the Renaissance during the early modern period, and the second of the great movements that came to define the era, was the Reformation, the subject of the third section of the module. The lectures here explore not only the origins and immediate impact of the early Protestant Reformation, but also its longer-term impact on the development of both Protestant and Catholic branches of Christianity, and indeed on wider belief systems such as those associated with magic and witchcraft. The fourth section, ‘Home and Abroad’, examines areas close to people’s personal and communal lives, such as family, gender relations, and town life, but also places these in the context of developments within and outside Europe, such as the growth of an international and global economy. The final section, ‘The Changing Boundaries of Knowledge’, investigates the gathering tide of new ideas and practices that were reshaping attitudes to the natural world and medicine, and that some have associated with a ‘Scientific Revolution’.

Students are required to attend two extended (2 hour) seminars. There will be a choice of four or five subjects. The aim of these seminars is to provide an opportunity for intensive discussion, which explores both the direct subject matter of the lectures, but also offers ways of thinking across lecture boundaries. Seminar themes are thus likely to include broad and inclusive topics such as the Reformation; a consideration of continuity and change in relation to demography, the family and towns; and early modern attitudes to the past.


This module provides a broad overview of the major themes of European history during the early modern period, introducing students to some of the highly influential developments of that period, such as the Renaissance and the Reformation, and the historiographical debates surrounding them. It is particularly relevant for those students studying the degree scheme in Medieval and Early Modern History (V190) but also provides an additional choice for students of history more generally.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6