Early Modern Europe: 1500-1815
Tel: (570) 208-5900, ext. # 5748
Office Hours: MWF 10-11
and by appointment
This course focuses chiefly on the political developments of the European states from
the end of the Middle Ages to end of the French Revolution, within the context of other
economic, social and cultural relationships. You will learn how new technologies and
methods of rule led to a competition between states for control of, first, Renaissance
Italy and, from there, the world. The religious Reformation and the subsequent religious
wars led to a precarious balance of power internationally and the assertion of absolutist
rule domestically. Meanwhile, representative government, which limited the rule of princes
through legislatures or constitutions, gained ground. The ideological and material
competition between Absolutism and Republicanism culminated in the French Revolution.
This is a History Major, European Sequence course.
Objectives for the student:
- To identify the major events, persons and ideas of the history of 16th-, 17th-, and
18th-century Europe and the West.
- To develop concepts and methods which give an understanding of what influenced the
attitudes and behavior of major participants in political situations.
- To read modern editions of primary sources and explain their significance to relevant
- To practice critical and analytical skills on historical problems.
- To identify and analyze significant problems and situations as they relate to the
current issues and the investigation of history.
Goals for the student:
- To develop a wider perspective which recognizes the political, economic and cultural
interdependence of differing societies and people, and which encourages a more inclusive
view of the human experience.
- To heighten awareness of the specific contributions and perspectives of diverse members
- To appreciate the social, economic, cultural and religious developments of Early Modern
Europe to our present culture and World History.
- To understand the influence of the past on contemporary events and problems, or, in
other words, to develop "Historical Mindedness."
General Learning Outcomes for the student:
In addition to the more content related objectives described above, this
course has some general liberal learning goals. Successful completion of this course is
expected to help improve your ability
- To manage information, which involves such things as sorting data, ranking data for
significance, and synthesizing facts, concepts and principles.
- To understand and use organizing principles or key concepts against which miscellaneous
data can be evaluated.
- To differentiate between facts, opinions and inferences.
- To frame questions so as to more clearly clarify a problem topic or issue.
- To compare and contrast the relative merits of opposing arguments and interpretations,
moving between the main points of each position.
- To organize your thoughts and communicate them clearly and concisely in a written form
and oral presentations.
- To obtain practice in selecting and presenting information and arguments within a
restricted environment, especially the limitations of time in exams.
III. General Requirements
- John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to 1815. 5th ed.
(W.W. Norton, 1996)
- Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (Norton Critical Edition)
- Voltaire, Candide (Norton Critical Edition)
The Merriman book is intended both to provide you with important factual and background
information before class and to be used as a review and reference work afterwards. Before
class, you will read in this textbook the chapters or pages according to the class
schedule. Not all topics in this textbook will be covered in class, but you are
responsible for them on the exam and in class discussion.
As for Machiavelli and Voltaire, you are to prepare them for class discussion and written assignments, described below. The instructor may
give quizzes and/or assign questions and brief writing assignments to test your reading
2. Class Participation & Attendance:
Participation and attendance are necessary because lecture and discussion provide the
essentials for achieving class goals and objectives. Thus a portion of your grade (about
20%) will depend on your in-class performance. You are required to attend each class,
arrive on time, remain attentive, respond to questions, ask questions and participate in
any in-class projects.
Absences due to college activities, emergency or extended illness may be excused by the
appropriate director or dean. Other absences are unexcused and will lower the class
participation portion of your grade. After any absence, you are responsible for making up
missed work, requesting hand-outs, picking up already returned assignments, and/or
borrowing notes from other students. Whether absences are excused or not, you cannot get a
higher grade than the percentage of classes attended.
All students who have a learning disability, physical handicap and/or any other
possible impediment to class participation and requirements should schedule an appointment
with the instructor during the first week of class to discuss available accommodations. For general information about expected academic honesy, click here.
You will take one midterm exam and a final exam, which is comprehensive, as assigned
during finals week.
Both exams will consist of short identifications quizzing knowledge of detail and
significance, and essays testing your understanding of the course material through logical
presentation of facts and explanation of historical trends.
You may take a missed exam, which may be an oral exam, at the discretion of the
4. Written Assignments:
You will have two written assignments of 4-6 pages of text each about Machiavelli and
Voltaire. You will also have a annotated bibliography connected to your oral report,
Papers should be handed in, in person, at the beginning of class on the due dates
The grade of any paper you turn in late will lose at least 10% after the beginning of
the first class, 20% after the second, and 35% after the third.
No late papers will be accepted after the last day of class. For general information about presentation and writing of papers
5. Women's History Research Site Internet Project:
You are to help build and expand upon the Women's History World Wide Web site. In
particular you will chose one woman or history topic from the list provided by the
instructor. Then you will
- write a brief biography or description of the topic;
- compile a thorough annotated bibliography;
- find links to sources of information on the internet;
- and build a site related to your information.
For general grading policy, click here.
Your final grade will be based on a percentage (above 91%=A, 89%=B+, 81%=B, etc.) of
the sum of the following points: 50 for each book essay; 10-20 for each quiz or in-class
project; 100 for the women's web site; 50 for its annotated bibliography; 100 for the
midterm exam, 150 for the final exam; and 200 for your overall class performance and
Some General Questions:
- The Peasants' Revolt of 1524-5: just or immoral?
- The Reforms of the Catholic Church: innovative or reactionary?
- Peace of Augsburg: necessary compromise or defeat of Catholicism?
- Colonial empires: legitimate expansion or immoral exploitation?
- Philip II: God's warrior or bigoted tyrant?
- The Thirty Years War: religious or political conflict?
- The Witch Hunts: misogyny or scapegoating?
- The Seventeenth Century: crisis or continuity?
- The Scientific Revolution: destructive or harmless to religion?
- The Enlightenment: enlightened or dangerous?
- Louis XIV: tyrant or virtuous king?
- Louis XIV: success or failure?
- The English Civil War: religious, economic, political or social?
- Charles II or James II: just monarch or lawless tyrant?
- Joseph II: farsighted reformer or impractical dreamer?
- Prussia's seizure of Silesia: justifiable or criminal?
- Frederick the Great: brilliant or lucky?
- Catherine II: the Great or average?
- Partitions of Poland: justifiable or criminal?
- British Empire: Manifest Destiny or ruthless imperialism?
- The American Revolution: real or not?
- The French Revolution: success or failure?
- Napoleon: betrayer or savior of the Revolution?
V. Class Topics:
- The End of the Middle Ages
- Renaissance Art & Thought
- The Wars over Italy
- The Counter-Reformation
- The Witch Hunts
- The Wars of Religion
- Spain and England
- English Civil War
- The Dutch Empire
- French and Russian Absolutism
- Austrian Absolutisms
- Enlightened Russia
- The Enlightenment
- Social change
- The British Empire
- The American Revolution
- The French Revolution