The Catholic University of America

History 221A: Early Modern Europe and the World, 1453-1815

This course begins in the late Middle Ages and ends in the modern world.  Our starting point will be 1453, a year that marked the fall of Constantinople, the end of the Hundred Years' War, and the commencement of the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.  We will finish in 1815, when the Congress of Vienna reassembled Europe after the rampages of Napoleon and when Brazil ceased to be a colony, a key moment in the burgeoning Latin American independence movement.  Our focus will be on early modern Europe and its relationship to the rest of the world, and topics covered will include the Renaissance and Reformation, global trade patterns, the expansion of Europe, the military revolution and the wars of religion, the rise of the nation-state, the development of 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

Tignor et al., Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, 2e, Volume B
Mitchell, Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Western Civilization
Machiavelli, The Prince
Schwartz, Victors and Vanquished: Spanish and Nahua Views
Calvin and Sadoleto, A Reformation Debate
Diefendorf, ed., The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents
Locke, Two Treatises on Civil Government
Helfferich, The Thirty Years War
Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
Voltaire, Candide


Assignments: 25%
Quizzes: 15%
Midterm: 15%
Final: 25%
Participation: 20%

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 a Discussion Section 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. The assignment for Week Eight is worth three assignments, while the assignment for Week Fifteen is worth two assignments.

Each week in the Discussion Section there will also be a quiz. The quizzes will test your comprehension of materials from that week's lectures and reading. In the first weeks of class, the quizzes will also include map questions.

Your lowest assignment grade and your lowest quiz grade will both be dropped. This policy is in lieu of a more generous absence policy, so be careful how you use it. The assignments for Week Eight and Week Fifteen will not be dropped if either is your lowest grade-instead, the impact of that grade will be reduced. For example, if you received a zero for the Week Eight assignment, instead of receiving a zero for the equivalent of three assignments, you would only receive a zero for the equivalent of two assignments.

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, 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 99503. 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 99503. You will be required to register your cell phone to this service as part of this class.

The midterm will be in class on October 9th. The final exam will be on Saturday December 19th from 1:30-3:30pm. Both exams will take place in our classroom (McMahon 200). Both exams will consist of IDs, map questions, short answers, and an essay. IDs will be drawn from the course outlines given at each lecture.

No late assignments will be accepted for any reason. However, as mentioned above, your lowest assignment grade and your lowest quiz grade will both be dropped. Assignments must be turned into your Discussion Section in hard copy unless your TA specifies otherwise. If you wish to email your TA your assignment one week due to extraordinary circumstances, you must ask for permission beforehand.

A major goal of this course is to improve your writing skills. Hence grammatical errors will be vigorously policed. In order to help you improve, errors will be flagged on your assignments in red ink. 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.

Many assignments have minimum word counts. Put the word count of your text at the end.  Do not include headers, titles, footnotes, or the word count itself as words. In order to do this, highlight the body of the text before selecting "Word Count" from the Tools menu in Microsoft Word. If you overstate the number of words in an assignment in order to appear to meet the stated minimum, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

Course Schedule

Week One: Endings and Beginnings in Europe

8/31 (M): 1453

9/2 (W): The Renaissance

9/4 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, pp. 446-454, 490-499
               "Did Women and Men Benefit Equally from the Renaissance?" from Taking Sides
               Machiavelli, The Prince

Map Quiz (modern countries)

Assignment: Bring 21 hard copies of your notes from the Wednesday lecture to the discussion on Friday.


Week Two: The World Beyond the West

9/9 (W): Global Trade Patterns and the Ming Dynasty

9/11 (F): Discussion and Citations Workshop

Reading: Feng Menglong, "Magistrate Teng Settles the Case of Inheritance with Ghostly Cleverness" and "Shen Xiaoxia Encounters the Expedition Memorials"
               Ling Mengchu, "How Fortune Smiled on Wen the Luckless"
               Ming Primary Source Documents
               Tignor, pp. 473-489 and 499-509

Map Quiz (modern countries and cities)

Assignment: Take notes on the reading and bring 21 hard copies of these notes to the discussion.


Week Three: Discovery and Expansion

9/14 (M): "The New World"

9/16 (W): Trade and Slavery

9/18 (F): Discussion

Reading: Schwartz, Victors and Vanquished: Spanish and Nahua Views
               Tignor, pp. 511-537, 543-551, 553-572

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

Assignment: Write at least a paragraph each on three documents from the reading: Section 3, Cortes (pp. 80-84); Section 5, Díaz (pp. 133-155); Section 7, Chronicles of Michoacán (pp. 184-9). Assess these documents as historical sources. In what ways are they reliable, and in what ways should the historian be cautious when using them? Be specific and avoid using the word 'I.' (minimum: 300 words)


Week Four: Reformation

9/21 (M): Martin Luther

9/23 (W): The Radical Reformation

9/25 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, pp. 537-543
               "Did Martin Luther's Reforms Improve the Lives of European Christians?" from Taking Sides
               Luther, "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation"
               Twelve Articles of the Peasants and Luther's response
               Luther's Smalcald Articles and the Trial of Anabaptist Michael Sattler

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

Assignment: Evaluate the arguments of both authors from Taking Sides and then make your own thesis about the advantages or disadvantages of the Reformation. Use at least three quotations from the primary source reading to help prove your argument. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Five: Attempts at Stabilization

9/28 (M): Calvinism

9/30 (W): The Catholic Reformation

10/2 (F): Discussion

Reading: Calvin and Sadoleto, A Reformation Debate
               Selections from the Registers of the Consistory
               Council of Trent, Sixth Session
               "Did Convents Expand Opportunities for European Women?" from Taking Sides

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. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Six: Warfare

10/5 (M): The Military Revolution and Wars of Religion

10/7 (W): Discussion

10/9 (F): Midterm

Reading: Diefendorf, ed. The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents

Assignment: Why were the French wars of religion so violent? Can you explain how, in the words of Mack Holt, "ordinary, law-abiding people could kill their neighbors in the name of religion"? Use at least three quotes from three different documents in the collection to defend your argument. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Seven: Missionaries

10/14 (W): Jesuits Abroad

10/16 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, pp. 609-617
Fabian, "Deus Destroyed"
               Suzuki, "Christians Countered"
               Jesuit letters from China
               Letters of Francis Xavier

Assignment: Imagine that you are a Jesuit who reads "Deus Destroyed" and "Christians Countered" and wants to persuade the Japanese to convert to Christianity. Write a treatise that defends the missionaries and their religion against the arguments of the Japanese. (minimum: 500 words)

Or, St. Francis Xavier writes three different documents that you have read: one to his missionaries, one to Jesuits back in Europe, and one to his supervisor, St. Ignatius Loyola. To what extent does his depiction vary in the three documents, and what does this suggest about Xavier's modification of information for different audiences? (minimum: 500 words)


Week Eight: The Mediterranean and the World

10/19 (M): The Spanish Empire

10/21 (W): The Ottoman Empire

10/23 (F): Discussion with Possible Library Field Trip

Reading: Primary Source Materials on the Siege of Malta
               Tignor, pp. 599-608

Assignment: Use only the primary source documents in order to write a narrative of the siege of Malta, with footnotes to indicate the origin of your facts. Do not read any other account of the siege of Malta except for information contained in the packet. You may look up words or consult maps that you need in order to understand the source materials, but do not reference any other material in your paper besides the primary source materials given on Blackboard. Feel free to indicate what the primary source materials do not tell you or where there is uncertainty or contradiction. (minimum: 500 words) This assignment is worth three assignments.


Week Nine: General Crisis

10/26 (M): The Thirty Years War

10/28 (W): The Nation-State

10/30 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, pp. 586-597
               Helfferich, The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History, pp. ix-xxi, 56-63, 107-113, 204-212, 249-252, 274-324
               Hobbes, Leviathan (selection)

Assignment: Primary sources intend to tell their audience something-they are written for a purpose. Choose three of the primary sources within the book, and describe what you think the purpose of each source was to its author. Then, explain ten things that you can learn about the time period from these three sources that the authors did not intend to convey. Give references to the material. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Ten: Eastern Transitions

11/2 (M): The Mughal Empire

11/4 (W): The Qing Dynasty

11/6 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, p. 572-586
               Father Antonio Monserrate and François Bernier, travel accounts of the Mughal Empire
               Pu Songling, "Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio" (selections)
               Qing Dynasty Sources

Assignment: Compare the Qing Dynasty stories to the Ming Dynasty stories we read. How does Chinese culture seem to have changed? In what ways can literary works be useful as historical documents, and in what ways does the historian need to be wary of using fiction as a source? (minimum: 400 words)


Week Eleven: Republics and Constitutions

11/9 (M): The Dutch Republic

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

11/13 (F): Discussion

Reading: Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government

Assignment: Imagine that you are Machiavelli, sitting in heaven (or hell?) reading a copy of Locke's Second Treatise. Write his response to the work. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Twelve: Absolutism

11/16 (M): The Sun King and his Descendants

11/18 (W): Enlightened Despots and the Rise of Prussia and Russia

11/20 (F): Discussion

Reading: Frederick the Great, "An Essay on Forms of Government"
               Louis XIV, Memoir for the Instruction of the Dauphin
               Bossuet, Politics Drawn from Holy Writ (selection)
               Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality

Assignment: Choose one of the portraits of an Enlightened Despot available on Blackboard. Write an analysis of the portrait-what is the monarch trying to convey by commissioning and displaying this picture? What does this picture tell us about Enlightened Despotism? You may make comparisons between the portraits if you like. (minimum: 300 words)


Week Thirteen: A Mechanical World

11/23 (M): The Scientific Revolution

Reading: Tignor, pp. 617-624
               "Was the Scientific Revolution Revolutionary?" from Taking Sides

Assignment: Evaluate the arguments of both authors and then create your own thesis about the nature of the Scientific Revolution. (minimum: 400 words)


Week Fourteen: Liberty and What?

11/30 (M): Enlightenment and the Consumer Revolution

12/2 (W): The American and French Revolutions

12/4 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, pp. 624-649
               "Was the French Revolution Worth Its Human Costs?" from Taking Sides
               Primary Source Packet on the French Revolution
               Voltaire, Candide 

Assignment: Was the French Revolution inevitable? Why or why not? (minimum: 400 words)

Or, to what extent does the French Revolution inaugurate modernity? (minimum: 400 words)


Week Fifteen: Aftershocks

12/7 (M): The Haitian Revolution and Latin American Independence

12/9 (W): Napoleon

12/11 (F): Discussion

Reading: Tignor, pp. 649-667
               "Was the West African Slave Trade a Precondition for the Rise of British Capitalism?" from Taking Sides
               Primary Source Packet from the Haitian Revolution
               Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Revolution

Assignment: Create and defend your own thesis about the relationship between early modern Europe and the rest of the world using evidence from the semester. (minimum: 500 words) This assignment is worth two assignments.


Week Sixteen: The Modern World

12/14 (M): 1815