In spite of the impending long week-end, there was a good turnout for Day 2 of European History Since 1648 at UNLV, so far un-derailed by my efforts to use classroom technology.
|Frans Hals, Archers of St Hadrian's*|
By way of orienting students to the 17th century, our starting point for the course, we had a conversation about beginnings. After all, narratives are shaped by their starting points. A conventional rationale for 1648 is the Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the 30 Years War and created a new framework for European power relations.
But other moments in 1648—the independence of the Dutch Republic; the resumption of the English Civil War which culminated in the execution of a king; a treaty with the Omani imam which led to the expulsion of the Portuguese from the Persian Gulf—provide us with different snapshots of a formative year for Europe, and different starting points. Each of those allow us to say very different things about where Europe was "coming from", and where it was "going" in 1648.
For the remainder of the class, we discussed what Europe looked like in the 17th century, in terms of geography, demography, and economics. My organizational skills leaving much to be desired, we ran out of time to discuss the political and religious realms, but we’ll pick up with those on Tuesday, and they should serve as a good introduction to our conversations about Locke, Hobbes, and other theorists of states and societies.
The first two days have involved me doing a lot of talking, but next week, when students begin reading primary sources, we'll start what I hope will be the more exciting part of the class.
Stay tuned, and happy Labor Day!
* One of many civic groups which claimed credit for freeing the Netherlands from Spanish rule