HST115: The 'Disenchantment' of Early Modern Europe, c. 1570-1770

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Kate Davison

Module Summary

This module explores the fundamental shifts in mental attitudes and public behaviour that occurred in Europe between the age of the Reformation and the age of the Enlightenment. The central focus of the course will be the examination of the supernatural – religious beliefs, but also witchcraft and magic. You will explore the changing ways in which beliefs impinged on people's lives at various social levels. You will also have an opportunity to study the impact on people's world views of such changes as rising literacy, urbanisation, state formation and new discoveries about the natural world. All these will be investigated in the institutional contexts of state and church and the ways in which they sought to channel and mould beliefs and behaviour. This module enables you to understand how the early modern period is distinctive from and links medieval and later modern historical studies.

Teaching and Assessment

The module will be taught through twice-weekly lectures and compulsory weekly seminars. Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level1

Selected Reading

There is no one course text. This is an advantage, since this course aims to take you beyond the textbook. However, if you have not studied this period before, or if you wish to make sure that you have a good guide to the period which makes it clear how those issues studied in the course fit into broader trends, then it is suggested that you purchase Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (2006). An alternative textbook containing some useful essays is Euan Cameron (ed.), Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 2001).

You might also want to purchase another book which tackles one or more of the central topics of the course. The following texts are excellent introductions to their subjects, each of which treats one of the major elements of the course, and all of which are available in paperback (you should make sure that you purchase the new, second edition wherever one is indicated).

  • Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 2002)
  • R. A. Houston, Literacy in Early Modern Europe. Culture and Education 1500-1800 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 2002)
  • Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • John Henry, The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science 2nd ed. (London: Palgrave, 2002)
  • Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (London: Penguin, 1971 & later printings)

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students completing this module will have developed:

  • A broad understanding of cultural change in a formative period of European history;
  • Their ability to understand and explain the ways in which past attitudes differ from the present;
  • Their ability to evaluate critically common assumptions about how and why people's belief-systems change;
  • Their ability to think critically and constructively about the interaction of social, political and cultural factors in patterns of historical change;
  • Their ability to recognise the varieties of European experience in this period, especially in their social dimensions;
  • Their ability to understand the significance of several distinct historical disciplines, including the history of ideas;
  • Their ability to participate in informed debate with their peers on the basis of detailed prior analysis of specified materials;
  • Their ability to master basic research and writing skills in researching and writing informed, well-structured synthetic essays on key topics;
  • Their ability to write informed and cogent essays under pressure of time.