Sunday, September 20, 2015

European History Since 1648, Week 2

We discussed Hobbes' Leviathan
It didn’t take me long to fall off the wagon, but here is an update for Week 2 of European History Since 1648 at UNLV.  Our first class that week discussed two of the emerging organizing principles for states during the 17th century, Absolutism and Constitutionalism.  The next one focused on the relationship between movement, communication, and power.
Our first class was based around a reading by the students of selections from John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Government, and Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.  We began by discussing some of the ‘attributes’ and ‘imperatives’ associated with states, by way of helping to define what constitutes a state, and also distinguishing between states and nations (a distinction that will become crucial later in the semester).  After I provided some context for the 17th century, the students did a close reading of the front-pieces of the two works, and then discussed points of comparison between the two. 
Much of our course will be preoccupied with understanding competing modes of organizing polities, and the different claims that subjects and citizens within those polities made on the states and nations in which they lived.  So Locke and Hobbes and the forms and relationships for which they advocated provide a good starting point.
Our class on Thursday was preoccupied with a series of readings that connected the mercantilist economies of the day (and competing modes of economic thought and organization) with concerns about movement, trade, and the colonies.  Students read selections from the narrative of Jacques Marquette, a missionary in North America who acted as an observer for and agent of empire.  His narrative of his travels helped us to think about questions of agency in early colonial environments.
Students also read an article from an English observer who advocated emulation of the socioeconomic framework of the Netherlands, and selections from a memorandum on trade by French finance minister Colbert.  The latter offered an instrumentalist view of the role of trade in the national economy.
In the course of this conversation we discussed how access to knowledge and mobility—in colonies and the metropole—empowered people, both subjects and rulers.  We discussed how maps and improvements to road and canal networks changed the nature of the relationship between individuals and the states in which they lived.

Next week, some discussion of religion in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and a lecture on the British East India Company…

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