Friday, September 12, 2014

European History, Day 5

Last Tuesday, we continued our conversation about the links between transportation, communication, and power while seguing into a discussion about religion in Europe during the 17th century in particular.
Witch trials took place in colonial New England as well as Europe

The class is large enough that I'm still fuzzy on a lot of student names, and so they did a brief group activity at the beginning of class so that they can begin to get to know each other.  The activity revolved around "Triads", an idea I got from a colleague Dr Paul Werth (UNLV's historian of Russia).  

He and others in the department took the concept of an ID (wherein students identify the 'who, what, when, where and why is this important?' associated with a term) up a notch.  Students are given three terms (to take one example, Colonialism, Mercantilism, and Bureaucracy), and asked to develop and argument about the relationship between them, drawing on sources from the class.  In this way, students are making connections and comparisons, very key historical skills!

We then had a discussion about how increasing mobility (primarily via road at this point) and map-making gave greater power to people at different levels of society: on the one hand, the state was better able to count, tax, and evaluate its subjects or citizens; on the other, people were able to track and follow labour markets (part and parcel of urbanization).

Having just read James Vernon's wonderful Distant Strangers: How Britain Became Modern, I also asked students to think about the discombobulating effects of this increased movement, particularly into urban settings where, as anyone who has crossed between rural and urban areas even today knows, requires vastly different social skill sets and sensibilities!  We'll return to this theme when we discuss the industrial revolution down the road.

The brief discussion of associational life provided a sketchy transition to the role which religion played during the 17th and 18th centuries.  But our two texts were more focussed on divisions that sprang up around the topic, and unfortunately we had to rush a bit through a discussion of the Edict of Nantes and the trial of Suzanne Gaudry, a woman accused of witchcraft.  Unable to do justice in our allotted time to European witch hunts, I directed students interested in learning more to a great historiographical article by colleague Dr. Elspeth Whitney, one of UNLV's Europeanists. 

True to form, after this foray back into the first half of the 17th century, we are now jumping forward to the Atlantic Slave Trade, focussing on the 18th century...

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