HIS 383C • Lit Eur Hist: Early Modern Period
The years between 1400 and 1750 saw many kinds of transformations that brought broad and extraordinary consequences in Western Europe. Europeans established colonies across the globe. Political systems evolved as highly centralized monarchies replaced the fragmented political authority characteristic of feudalism. The economies of European countries saw large scale changes as merchant capitalism expanded to become the dominant form of economic organization, manufacturing grew both within the guild system and without in new rural zones of domestic industry. Populations slowly recovered to the levels reached before the Black Death of 1348-1353 and, from the late fifteenth century began to grow to unprecedented levels. More and more people lived in towns and cities. Elites sought to redefine and relegitimize their positions as courtiers, judges, and financiers as the new technologies of warfare undermined the grip of knights on battlefield success. Scientists and writers created a vibrant intellectual community whose debates and discoveries broke away from the traditions founded 2000 years earlier by the Greeks and provided the foundations of modern culture. The Catholic Church's centuries' old claim to a monopoly on Christian orthodoxy was finally and irrevocably undermined with the emergence of numerous Protestant denominations after Martin Luther's break with Rome in 1517. Both Catholic and Protestant Reformations reshaped spiritual life and organization for clergy and laity alike. These myriad changes provide some of the markers of the development of modern society, and historians have learnt to ask who exactly participated in these processes and how gender (as well as factors such as religion, class, place of residence) shaped their impact.
This seminar offers an introduction to main themes and methods in early modern European historiography, as reflected in the work of the last forty years or so. It aims both to introduce to some of the "greatest hits" of this field and to provide some indicators of current directions. It is structured to allow students ample opportunity to pursue readings in the areas of particular interest to them.