Nipissing University

History 2155 -- Early Modern Europe


Grading scheme -- Course Outline

This course aims to give you a basic understanding of the political, economic and intellectual development of Europe (mainly Western Europe) between 1400 and 1800.  During these centuries the medieval church split irrevocably into Catholic and Protestant camps;  European governments became more powerful than ever before; European mariners ventured into the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, making possible conquest and commercial profit on an unprecedented scale; and heated debates took place about the form of government and the role of religion in life.  The course will touch on all of these topics.

 Professor:  Steve Muhlberger
 Office: H 312
 Office Phone: 474-3461 ext. 4458
 Office Hour: 
 Home Phone: 776-1247 (before 9 p.m.)
 Personal Home Page:  /muhlberger/muhlberg.htm
 Course Home Page:  /muhlberger/2155/earlymod.htm


Required Books:

Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism : The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

Nabil Matar, ed. and trans., In the Lands of the Christians:  Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century

The Portable Machiavelli

Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, A Short Residence in Sweden and Memoirs of the Author of "The Rights of Woman."

Suggested writing manuals:

Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History 

Any writing manual you may own may be perfectly adequate for guidance on footnoting, bibliography, etc. If you have any doubts, please show the manual to me. 


The course grade will be based on 2 papers, a midterm exam, and the final exam.

Each paper will be  8-10 pages.  Detailed assignments will be distributed later, and will be linked to the electronic version of  this document.

 In addition, you will be reading excerpts from primary sources (documents written during ancient times) throughout the year. The excerpts will be distributed to you via the Internet, which is by far the most flexible and cheapest way.   All students have Internet access through the university, but if you foresee a problem, please let me know.

1. First Paper  -- due Oct. 21 -- 25%

2. Midterm exam -- Dec. 6 -- 20%

3.  Second Paper -- due Mar. 2 -- 25%

4.  Final examination -- 30%


A Brief Course Outline with Reading Assignments

All the source readings for this course are on-line.  The most convenient way of accessing them is through the online version of this handout.   Since URLs may change, the online handout is the authoritative version.


Sept. 8     Introduction to the Course

Sept. 13     The Discontents of the Later Middle Ages

Identify the two groups whose "discontents" these documents represent.   What are their complaints? How do they strike at the foundations of late medieval society?

Sept. 15    Politics in the Fifteenth Century

Sept. 20    The Turks

(The second document proper seems to start with the 3rd paragraph)

Each of these documents shows an aspect of Ottoman society that differed from that of Christian Europe.   In what way does Ottoman society seem to have advantages over European society?

Sept. 22    History That Stands Still

What population movements seem to be revealed by these population estimates?  What is significant about this information?

Sept. 27    Economic Life and the "Common People"

Sept. 29    Traditional Christianity, Schism, and Religious Revolt

What do these stories tell you about the aims of the preachers who wrote them down?  What do they reveal about the audience for sermons, and how?

Oct. 4       Renaissance Thought and Politics in Italy

Why does Petrarch see himself  battling logicians?  What values is he fighting for?

Oct. 6    Two Northern Kingdoms -- France and England and the 100 Years War

What do these three documents, in combination, tell you about France in the period of the Hundred Years War?

Oct 11 & 13   Study Week

Oct. 18   Germany and the Towns of the North in the 15th c.

Oct. 20    Exploration, Trade and Conquest

What does Columbus' journal tell you about his motivations?

Oct. 21 -- First essay due

Oct. 25    Italy in the Time of Machiavelli

"Machiavellian" is used to describe cynical, deceitful powerbrokers.  Was there something more to the man than that?

Oct. 27   Charles V and Great Power Politics in the Early 16th Century

Speculate on the nature of the empire, and the challenges facing its emperor, based on its geography.

Nov. 1   Luther

Based on this document, what was the young Martin Luther like?  (Take into account not only his story, but how he tells it.)

Nov. 3   The Reformation Continued

The "Address" can be seen as advertising for the Reformation aimed at the princes of Germany.  Why might they care about this particular issue?

Nov. 8  The Counter Reformation

What are Loyola's principles?  Why might they be attractive to members of  his new order?  To others?

Nov. 10   England under Henry VIII and After

What does this reading tell us about the implementation of the Reformation?

Nov.  15  The Witch Hunt

What motives seem to lie behind these documents?

Nov. 17  War in the 16th Century

Nov. 22   Religious Warfare in France

What does this document tell you about the atmosphere of France in the late 16th century?

Nov. 24   The Dutch Revolt

How does this document justify the Dutch revolt?  What issues are de-emphasized?  Why? Is this a radical or a conservative argument?

Nov. 29  The Year of the Armada and After

(1) React to Elizabeth's statement; (2) What does the "English Mercurie" tell us about the period?

Dec. 1   The Dutch Miracle

What do these paintings tell you about Dutch culture of the 17th century?

Dec. 6 Midterm exam


Jan. 10    England, Scotland and Ireland under Elizabeth and James

Jan. 12    Origins of the English Civil War

Pick a document and analyze.  What, according to it, were the issues of the Civil War era?

Jan. 17   England Divided

Each of these documents reflect feeling within the "Parliamentary" party.  How do they differ?

Jan. 19    Commonwealth and Restoration

This is the deal offered by a would-be king.  Why was it accepted?

Jan. 24    The Last Valley I

Jan. 26    The Last Valley II

Jan. 31    Overcoming a Crisis?  Warfare, Witchcraft, and Domestic Peace

How does this show the danger posed by Galileo and his approach?  The appeal Galileo had for contemporaries?

Feb. 2     Theory of Absolutism -- Louis XIV and Versailles

Pick a document and analyze.  What, according to it, were the important characteristics of the French monarchy of the 17th c.?

Feb. 7     17th C. Imperialism

Feb. 9    The Glorious Revolution

What does this tell you about the tensions within English political society?

Feb. 14    The Wars of Louis XIV

Reconstruct the Gazette's audience and its interests.

Feb. 16    Parties and Parliaments in Early 18th C. Britain

Why, besides simple "rottenness" did Rotten Boroughs exist?

Feb. 21 & 23 Study Week

Feb. 28  Enlightenment Thought

Voltaire is often seen as a tolerant skeptic.  What do these excerpts tell you about him and his later popularity?

Mar. 2   Enlightened Despots

What does this excerpt tell us about "reform" and "modernization?"

Mar 2  Second essay due

Mar. 7    Prussian Absolutism

What do you learn about 18th century Prussia from these excerpts?

Mar. 9   Imperial Wars of the 18th C.

Why does Burke see India as a test for the English system?

Mar. 14   Economic Growth and the Industrial Revolution

How do these documents reflect important changes of the 18th century?

Mar. 16   France and the Ancien Regime

What flaws does Arthur Young see in French customs and institutions?  What are his own values?

Mar. 21   Revolutionary Thinkers

What is radical about Paine's analysis of government?  Why was it so effective in stirring up support for American independence?

Mar. 23   Causes of the French Revolution

What are Sieyes' underlying principles?  What other documents read so far might be seen as precursors to this one?

Mar. 28   The French Revolution in the Early Stages

What are the underlying principles of this declaration?  What, in your opinion, is not there but should be?  Why isn't it?

Mar. 30   From Constitutional Monarchy to Republic

How do these documents portend political instability in the wake of the revolution of 1789?

Apr. 4     The Reign of Terror and the Reaction

What does this document tell you about the nature and influence of the French Revolution?

Apr. 6    Review for Exam