The Catholic University of America

History 221: Early Modern Europe

This course begins in the late Middle Ages and ends in the modern world.  We will consider the political, cultural, economic, technological, and religious changes that transformed Europe from the relatively isolated Medieval Christendom into a region of fractious and advanced global powers.  Topics covered will include the Renaissance and Reformation, global trade patterns, the military revolution and the wars of religion, the Thirty Years’ War, the rise of the nation-state, republicanism and absolutism, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, and the multiple revolutions that close out our time period (English, American, French, and Haitian).  The class will also provide an introduction to basic historical skills.


Course Books

Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, A History of the Modern World
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man
Machiavelli, The Prince
Erasmus and Luther, Discourse on Free Will
Calvin and Sadoleto, A Reformation Debate
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Montaigne, The Complete Essays
Descartes, Discourse on the Method
Helfferich, The Thirty Years War
Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government
La Rochefoucauld, Maxims
Jacob, The Enlightenment: A Brief History with Documents
Shelley, Frankenstein



Assignments: 40%
Map Quizzes: 5%
Midterm: 20%
Final: 25%
Participation: 10%


Instructional Methods

Each class will begin with a musical selection relevant to that day's lecture.  Lectures will include images and maps and will require students to participate with instant-feedback polls conducted through text messaging.  Once a week there will be discussion sections in which small groups of students will talk about the reading.



Each week in the Discussion Section an assignment will be due.  Most assignments have minimum word counts and should be turned in via hard copy to your Teaching Assistant/discussion leader.  The assignments primarily require you to discuss some aspect of that week's reading.  Your lowest assignment grade will be dropped.  There will also be a series of map quizzes in the opening weeks of the semester.

Your cell phone will be used in class to send texts answering poll questions to Poll Everywhere. If you do not have a cell phone or do not wish to use this service, alternate arrangements can be made. If any student is caught texting on more than one phone, both phone numbers will receive zeros for the rest of the semester. Other attempts to cheat during these in-class polls will be treated similarly. Your own performance on these text messaging questions will not affect your grade in any other way-i.e., if you often get the wrong answer, this will not hurt your grade. However, the overall performance of the Discussion Sections will be evaluated against each other, and the Discussion Section that accumulates the most points over the semester will receive extra credit on the final exam. The text messaging number is 22333. The polls will send you an automatic response so that you can be sure that your vote was tabulated. If you wish to block this response, text STOP to 22333.

The midterm will be in class on October 15th. The final exam will be on Friday December 17th from 8am to 10am. Both exams will take place in our classroom. Both exams will consist of IDs, map questions, short answers, and an essay.  I will give you a set of all possible IDs before each exam.

A major goal of this course is to improve your writing skills. Hence grammatical errors will be vigorously policed.  The first time that you make an error, it will be noted and explained, possibly with a reference to the Hacker guide used in your composition class. Your particular errors will be tracked by your discussion leader.  If you repeat an error in future assignments, that assignment grade will drop by 1/3rd for each instance of the repeated error.


Extra Credit Opportunity

For every Shakespearean sonnet that you memorize and can recite (with no more than one mistake) to your section leader, you will receive 1 extra credit point on the midterm.  If you are still able to recite them at the end of the semester, you will receive .5 points per sonnet on your final.  There will be recitation opportunities in the weeks of October 4th and December 6th; you may attend one of these in each week.  You will be asked to briefly explain the meaning of each sonnet you recite.


Course Schedule

Week One: Endings and Beginnings

8/30 (M): The Black Death

9/1 (W): 1453

9/3 (F): Discussion and Citations Workshop

Reading: Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 49-55

Assignment: Take notes on the Wednesday lecture and on the reading for the week. Turn in the notes (or a copy of them) at your Friday discussion section.


Week Two: Renaissance and Revival

9/8 (W): Italian Renaissance: Art and Philosophy

9/10 (F): Discussion and Map Quiz #1

Reading: Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 56-69

Map Quiz (modern countries)

Assignment: Examine the Renaissance art available on Blackboard.  To what extent do the paintings depict, in visual form, the ideas that Pico della Mirandola espouses in his oration?  Use at least three paintings and three quotations from Pico della Mirandola in order to support your argument.  Make sure that your footnotes for the Pico della Mirandola quotes follow the format discussed last week in your discussion section Citations Workshop. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Three: Ambitions Unleashed

9/13 (M): Italian Renaissance: Politics, Money, and War

9/15 (W): The "New World"

9/17 (F): Discussion and Map Quiz #2

Reading: Machiavelli, The Prince
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 69-77

Map Quiz (modern countries and cities)

Assignment: Imagine that Machiavelli has been brought up before the International Tribunal, where he is being tried for “inspiring crimes against humanity” and “giving advice to dictators.”  You have been assigned to be his defense attorney.  Write your closing statement in which you defend Machiavelli.  Make sure that you use at least three quotations from The Prince and cite them correctly. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Four: Reformation

9/20 (M): Martin Luther

9/22 (W): The Radical Reformation

9/24 (F): Discussion and Map Quiz #3

Reading: Erasmus and Luther, Discourse on Free Will
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 77-92

Map Quiz (modern countries, cities, rivers, and bodies of water)

Assignment:  Erasmus was plagued by the accusation that he had “laid the egg that Luther hatched,” i.e., that humanism had led to the Reformation.  To what extent was this a fair accusation?  Draw on the reading and materials from lecture to support your argument. (minimum 400 words)


Week Five: Attempts at Stabilization

9/27 (M): Calvinism

9/29 (W): The Catholic Reformation

10/1 (F): Discussion and Map Quiz #4

Reading: Calvin and Sadoleto, A Reformation Debate
               Selections from the Registers of the Consistory
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 93-98

Map Quiz (modern countries, cities, rivers, and bodies of water, islands, and mountain ranges)

Assignment: Take the Registers of the Consistory and show how it could be used to support seven different historical arguments.  For example, the registers might be used as evidence to support the argument that women had more difficulty giving up the rosary than men. State each argument and give citations to show your evidence. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Six: Conquistadors and Padres

10/4 (M): Missionaries

10/6 (W): The Spanish Empire

10/8 (F): Excursion to the Library for a Rare Books Exhibit on the Siege of Rhodes and Malta

Reading: Cervantes, Don Quixote, Volume I, ch. 1-20; Vol. II, ch. 64-74
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 99-130

Assignment: What are the advantages and disadvantages for a historian of using fiction?  In what ways can Don Quixote be used for evidence to discuss the decline of Spain and in what ways is it dangerous to rely on a novel?  Use at least three quotations from the Cervantes to support your argument. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Seven: Warfare

10/12 (Tu): The Military Revolution

10/13 (W): The Wars of Religion

10/15 (F): Midterm

Reading: Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 130-135


Week Eight: The Center Does Not Hold

10/18 (M): The General Crisis of the Seventeenth-Century

10/20 (W): The Scientific Revolution

10/22 (F): Discussion

Reading: Descartes, Discourse on the Method
               Montaigne, Essays: Book I, essays 1, 8, 20, 26, 27, and 31; Book II, essays 1, 2, and 10; Book III,   essays 2 and 6

Assignment: Put either Descartes or Montaigne into his historical context.  How does his writing reflect the time in which he lives?  Use at least three quotations from the author in your argument. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Nine: The Thirty Years' War

10/25 (M): The Stages of the War

10/27 (W): Significance and Outcomes

10/29 (F): Discussion

Reading: Helfferich, The Thirty Years War, pp. ix-xxi, 56-63, 107-113, 204-212, 249-252, 274-324
               Hobbes, Leviathan (selection)
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 135-143

Assignment: A key skill for all historians is assessing source reliability.  Choose any three sources from the Helfferich collection and explain to what extent you find each source reliable.  What elements of each source suggests that this is a reliable document, and what elements of each suggest that the historian needs to be wary? (minimum: 400 words)


Week Ten: Republics and Civil Liberties

11/1 (M): The Dutch Empire

11/3 (W): The English Civil War and Glorious Revolution

11/5 (F): Discussion

Reading: Locke, The Second Treatise of Government
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 149-169

Assignment: Rewrite chapters 1-9 of Locke’s Second Treatise as a string of arguments.  Strive to be concise yet thorough.  This is not a summary nor an abbreviation of Locke.  Rather, you should discern and rephrase his key philosophical arguments, step-by-step.  You do not need to include examples or rhetorical flourishes that he uses. (no word minimum)


Week Eleven: Absolutism

11/8 (M): Louis XIV and His Descendants

11/10 (W): Enlightened Despots

11/12 (F): Discussion

Reading: La Rochefoucauld, Maxims
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 145-148, 169-224, and 311-329

Assignment: Primary sources intend to tell their audience something; they are written for a purpose.  What was La Rochefoucauld’s purpose in writing these Maxims?  In publishing them?  After identifying these purposes, explain ten things that you can learn about the time period from this source that La Rochefoucauld did not intend to convey. Give references to the material. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Twelve: Enlightenment

11/15 (M): The Theory of Enlightenment

11/17 (W): The Consumer Revolution

11/19 (F): Discussion

Reading: Jacob, Enlightenment, all except for the selection from Rousseau
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 240-255, 297-311, and 329-337

Assignment: What is Enlightenment? Use at least four quotations from primary sources in the Jacob collection to explain and defend your definition. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Thirteen: Eighteenth-Century Warfare

11/22 (M): La Guerre en Dentelle

Reading: Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 257-296


Week Fourteen: Revolutions

11/29 (M): The American Revolution and its Reception

12/1 (W): The French and Haitian Revolutions

12/3 (F): Discussion

Reading: Rousseau, The Social Contract, from Jacob, Enlightenment
               Primary Source Packet on the French Revolution
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 338-394

Assignment:    Do ideas have consequences?  To what extent is Rousseau responsible for the Terror in the French Revolution?  Use at least three citations from Rousseau and three citations from the primary sources to make your argument. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Fifteen: And They All Came Tumbling Down

12/6 (M): Napoleon's Empires

12/10 (F): Discussion

Reading: Shelley, Frankenstein
               Palmer, Colton, and Kramer, pp. 395-457

Assignment: What does Shelley’s Frankenstein tell us about the cultural mood at the beginning of the modern era? Why is this so?  What is the historical context for the work?  (minimum: 500 words)


Week Sixteen: The Modern World

12/13 (M): 1815


Final Exam: Friday, December 17th, 8am-10am