Monday, August 31, 2015

Welcome to European History Since 1648

Some of the texts the students will encounter this semester.
Last Fall, I began an experiment whereby I posted regularly in conjunction with the class I was teaching.  Life intervened, and I trailed off two-thirds of the way through the term.  I’m going to give it another try, and so, for interested readers…

Welcome to History 106, European History Since 1648!  This class is offered at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and covers some of the major themes and events in European history.  I’ve posted our reading schedule for the term below, and will post updates once or twice a week.

If you’re interested in European history or history more generally, it might be interesting to follow along.  I’d like to think that history as it is taught in a university setting is a bit different from the high school version, demanding more analysis and critical thinking, and treating the past like a puzzle rather than a simple story.

So even if you couldn’t stand history as a student, and have never studied history in a university setting, the brief updates here might give you some idea of what students are doing in a university setting, and what the study of often-maligned humanities subjects looks like.  Students are reading four stand-alone texts, but below you can find links to the short, primary source texts they are being asked to read.

Our first meetings last week were largely occupied by introductions to the course and to the books and other materials students will need.  The students all introduced themselves…learning 50 names is a slow process for someone with my memory, but it will happen before the semester is over!

In our second class last week, we began discussing some course themes and materials.  Our course begins in 1648, and we discussed how that beginning point helps to shape the narrative that we tell.  The peace of Westphalia that settled the Thirty Years War is the conventional reason for starting in that year, but we discussed how focusing on events in the English Civil War leading to the execution of a king, the formal recognition by the Spanish Empire of the Dutch Republic, and Portuguese defeats by the Omani Sultanate in the Indian Ocean could set us on different trajectories, or make us think about the state of Europe in 1648 in different ways.

We also began to sketch out what Europe looked like in the 17th century.  We began with demographics, and students were asked to look at population trends and theorize historically about what could explain the numbers: the 30 Years’ War could help to account for a dip; family patterns, agricultural developments, and the gradual disappearance of plague could account for the steady increase.

We’ll pick up with this tomorrow, to discuss economic, political, and religious trends in 17th century Europe.  I will talk in general terms about what a “state” is and how we might define it.  We will then embark on a discussion of two pieces by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, and the respective views these philosophers held on what constituted a good state and society.
Feel free to tag along!


(subject to change)

Week 1: Introductions
Making of the West, “Wars of Religion and the Clash of Worldviews, 1560-1648”
                25 August (Lecture 1): Thinking about Europe and History
                                Readings:  Course Syllabus
                27 August (Lecture 2): Beginnings
Week 2: Forming States and Societies
                Making of the West, “Absolutism, Constitutionalism, and the Search for Order, 1640-1700”
1 September (Lecture 3): Theories of State and Society: Absolutism and Contracts
Readings: John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government; Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (
3 September (Lecture 4): Transportation, Communication, and Power
Readings: Jacques Marquette, Exploring the Mississippi Part 2 (; Brief Observation Concerning Trade & Money, through paragraph beginning “lastly” (; Colbert, memorandum on trade (
Week 3: Moral and Material Economies of a New World
8 September (Lecture 5): Religion in Europe
Readings: Henry IV, Edict of Nantes (; The Trial of Suzanne Gaudry (webcampus)
                10 September (Lecture 6): The British East India Company and the Modern World
Readings:  A Brief Description of the Excellent Vertues of that Sober and Wholseome Drink Called Coffee (webcampus); Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (webcampus); First English Coffee Houses (
Week 4: Slavery and the Atlantic World
                Making of the West, “The Atlantic System and its Consequences”
                15 September: Guest Lecturer
                                Readings:  To be determined
17 September: Library visit, mandatory attendance
Week 5: Corporate and Intellectual Foundations
                Making of the West, “The Promise of Enlightenment”
                22 September (Lecture 7):  Politics and Economy in the 18th Century [First paper due]
Readings: “The English State and Fiscal Appropriation” (webcampus)
24 September (Lecture 8): The Enlightenment Through Ideas in Europe
Readings: Nathan the Wise; Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment (; Salon Life (;
Week 6: Enlightenment and Revolution
Making of the West, “The Cataclysm of Revolution, 1789-1799” and “Napoleon and the Revolutionary Legacy”
                29 September (Lecture 9): The Enlightenment Through Practice Overseas
Readings:   Rousseau on the Inequality of Mankind (
Video in class: The Life and Times of Sara Baartman:
                1 October (Lecture 10): The French Revolution
Readings: Abbe Sieyes, “What is the Third Estate” (; The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (; Maximilien Robespierre, “Justification of the Use of Terror” (; Olympe De Gouges, Letters on the Trial (; Levee en Masse (;
Week 7: Political and Industrial Revolution
                Making of the West, “Industrialization and Social Ferment, 1830-1850”
                6 October (Lecture 11): Revolutionary Reverberations
Readings:  Begin reading The Communist Manifesto; Francois Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture, Toussaint’s Constitution & Proclamation of 1801 (both at
8 October (Lecture 12): Industrialism and Industrial Society
Readings: Factory Rules in Berlin (,2009/2-second-quarter/factory_rules_in_berlin2.htm); James Vernon, “A Society of Strangers” (webcampus)
Week 8: Communism and the Re-Making of Politics
13 October (Lecture 13): Politics and Revolution
                Readings: The Communist Manifesto;
                15 October: Midterm Exam
Week 9: Empire
Making of the West, “Politics and Culture of the Nation-State, 1850-1870” and “Empire, Industry, and Everyday Life, 1870-1890”
                20 October (Lecture 14): Science and Man
Readings: Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (webcampus); Liberal economics; Walter Bagehot, Physics and Politics;
                22 October (Lecture 15): New Imperialism [Second short paper due]
Readings: Commissioner Lin, Letter to Queen Victoria (; Jules Ferry, Speech Before the French National Assembly (; Cecil Rhodes, Confession of Faith (; Lugard;
Week 10: Change and Continuity in a New Century
                Making of the West, “Modernity and the Road to War, 1890-1914”
                27 October (Lecture 16): European Women
                29 October (Lecture 17): Nationalism and the European States
Week 11: War & Revolution
                Making of the West, “World War I and Its Aftermath, 1914-1929”
3 November (Lecture 18): World War I
                5 November (Lecture 19): Revolution in Russia and its aftermaths
Week 12: The Coming of War
                Making of the West, “The Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945”
                10 November (Lecture 20):  Fascism in Western Europe
                12 November (Lecture 21): The Second World War
Week 13: Europe in the New World
Making of the West, “The Cold War and the Remaking of Europe, 1945-1960s”
17 November (Lecture 22): Welfare States and European Unity vs. the Creeping Cold War/United Nations
                19 November (Lecture 23):  Ends of Empire
Readings:  Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, In the House of the Interpreter
Week 14: The Cold War in Europe
                Making of the West, “Postindustrial Society and the End of the Cold War Order, 1960s-1989”
                24 November (Lecture 24): The Soviet System and its Fall
Readings: The Power of the Powerless (; The Collapse of the USSR (
                26 November (Lecture 25):  Happy Thanksgiving!  No class.
Week 15: Conclusions
                Making of the West, “A New Globalism, 1989 to the Present”
                1 December (Lecture 26): Europe in a New Millennium  [Third paper due]
Readings: To be determined...
                3 December (Lecture 27):  Concluding Thoughts
Final Exam: 10 December, 8-10. 

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