European and World History

Studied in one of four periods, this is a paper in non-British History, which combines the study of an extended period with geographical range. It is approached more thematically than British History, with an emphasis on the conceptual categories – of gender, economy, culture, state and religion – which enable us to understand both what past societies have had in common and where they have differed:

This course could have been labelled ‘The Heirs of Rome’. At the time it opens, human experience around the Mediterranean and far into its hinterland had been much the same for half a millennium or more. The Later Roman Empire was only the last of a series that had brought strong government and a generally ‘civilized’ standard of life – though the first to introduce them to north-western Europe. Yet within three centuries, most recognizable features of the world created by Rome and Persia had ceased to exist. The Arab armies of Islam, the last of the world’s great religions, took over the bulk of the ancient Near East, creating an enormous new capital at Baghdad; throughout the period covered by this course, and for some time afterwards, the Islamic ‘Caliphate’ was much the most prosperous and cultivated part of the known world. The rump of the old eastern Roman Empire survived as what historians call Byzantium: it was a formidable power within its limits, but is best regarded as another of Rome’s successor states. The West’s new super-power was the Franks, under the rule first of the Merovingian dynasty, and then of the Carolingians; Charlemagne (768-814), their greatest king, would be as formative for the making of medieval culture as was Napoleon for the modern world. For all that, the empire he created, covering most of Western Europe, fell apart under his successors. In short, the changes affecting the known world in this period were arguably more total and more startling than any before the nineteenth-century advent of European industry and empire.

This course thus has a Eurasian rather than merely European scope, stretching from Persia’s inner Asian frontiers to the British Isles and Scandinavia. Among its chief themes is that it is unnecessary to take too negative a view of the period’s turbulence. While the ancient world was well-defined, it was culturally ‘closed’, content with tall stories about life as lived beyond its frontiers. The West’s post-Roman masters, by contrast, penetrated the non-Christian and un-Roman worlds of Vikings, Khazars and Slavs, and by exploring hitherto unknown reaches of the northern Atlantic and of the eastern forests, sowed the first seeds of the twentieth century’s superpowers. Among the achievements of Christian literature was the devising of scripts, east and west, which are substantially the same as those in use today. Western Christendom and Byzantium developed their own new forms of social behaviour, whether secular (the life of the warrior), or spiritual (that of the monk); and the dividends these yielded in metalwork or book-illumination certainly stand comparison with the masterpieces of ancient art. If the overall impression of the period 370-900 remains one of a Christian world struggling for survival, it is also possible to pick up the first stirrings of the aggressive expansionism that would one day carry European culture into all corners of the World.

An attractive feature of early medieval history is that because the sources are so relatively few, it is possible for students to get access to a relatively high proportion of what is available. Takers of this course will explore translations of Roman historians (including a first-hand account of an embassy to Attila the Hun), Christian chroniclers, writers of saints’ lives and Muslim literati. They will be introduced to works of art of enduring beauty, though no longer (any more than is modern art) in the humanist idiom of classical culture. By putting our few texts in their wider cultural context, and by using written and material evidence together, we can recover a good idea of what was happening. The world of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages is an extremely lively field of current research and debate, both in this university and elsewhere. This course aims to show why.

This course explores a series of structures and processes over a period of three hundred years that were integral to the formation of Latin Christendom. This exploration involves attending to developments within a number of important practices and institutions in Western Europe itself, but also requires an understanding of changes in regions beyond western Europe, and an appreciation of the impact of hostile and peaceful encounters between western Europeans and representatives of other faiths and cultural traditions.

One way of interpreting the changes which occurred over this three-hundred-year period is to argue that in c.1000 Western (‘Latin’) Europe was typified by a largely agrarian society, substantial political fragmentation, a political culture dominated by unregulated violence, and highly localised religious practices. It was neighboured to the south by the territorially more powerful and culturally more sophisticated Islamic and Byzantine worlds, and to the north and east by pagans or only-recently converted Christians who retained many alien political and cultural practices. According to this line of thinking the next three centuries saw substantial internal strengthening and unification within Latin Christendom, observable in developments within both religious and secular culture; at the same time there was substantial external expansion, much of it involving religious warfare, at the expense of neighbouring cultures. Yet, while the unification and expansion of Latin Christendom are leitmotifs of this course, there is a paradox in that many of those developments also led to new forms of fragmentation, dissent, and contest. The study of topics such as heresy and gender allow us to probe the uneasy relationships between inclusion and exclusion, expansion and fragmentation inside Latin Christendom. An excellent way of assessing developments within Latin Europe since 1000 is to examine how western Christians responded to the arrival in the mid- thirteenth century of a powerful new threat: the pagan Mongols.

Through tutorials and lectures this course focuses on the key features of the growth and expansion of Latin Christendom while also looking at the neighbouring cultures. Crucial institutions such as kingship, papacy and empire are assessed. Attention is paid to the growth of towns, villages and trade, the product of a continental-wide experience of agrarian expansion. Important dimensions to the religious culture of Latin Christendom are analysed including monasticism, pilgrimage, crusade, and universities. Developments within secular culture and their overlap with religious practice are explored through analysis of knighthood and chivalry. The encounter of Latin Europe with neighbouring cultures focuses principally on frontier regions such as Iberia, Sicily, Byzantium and the Baltic

The period from 1400 to 1650 can be considered a defining moment in the creation of modern Europe and its relations with the rest of the world.

Beginning when population and agricultural production had been sharply reduced by plague, it saw both rise to new levels, while the development of cross-European trade began the process of economic specialization. Explorers, adventurers and merchants were opening up the New World of America, Africa and the Far East, laying the basis of a future world economy. Expansion of the material world was matched by enlargement of intellectual and cultural horizons. A new type of lay scholar, the humanist, rediscovered the texts of Latin and Greek antiquity, and developed intellectual interests, in language, morals and history, which differed markedly from those of medieval scholasticism. Artists and architects likewise took fresh inspiration from classical models, creating the glories of the High Renaissance and Baroque. The possibilities of new technology were most dramatically realised in the invention of printing.

Yet just as Renaissance drew Europeans closer in learning and culture, Reformation created unprecedented divisions in religion. Luther and Calvin succeeded where fifteenth-century heretics had failed, creating new churches, and forcing the long process of reform within the Roman Catholic Church to harden into Counter-Reformation. Economic and religious pressures put new strains on political structures. Expanding resources after 1500 enabled monarchs to support increasingly spectacular courts, larger administrations and more permanent armies, while forging new alliances with their nobilities. By contrast city-state republics flourished in the fifteenth century and declined in the sixteenth, only to set a new example in the successful revolt of the Dutch against the Spanish Monarchy.

By concentrating on broad themes rather than on the detail of developments within individual countries, the paper offers you the opportunity to study the whole process of historical change within this period. The lectures will introduce you to the major topics, while tutorials and classes take advantage of the range and quality of historical writing on this period to examine a wide variety of specific problems and subjects. To encourage study of the full range of developments within the period, the examination paper will require you to answer questions from three of the four sections into which it is divided.

This course approaches the nineteenth century in the widest possible way, ranging from population trends and social structure to cultural history and from revolutions to imperialism. It centres on Primarily in Europe (including the British Isles) ventures beyond this particularly when dealing with imperialism.

The nineteenth century is often hailed as the century of nationalism. The paper will cover the state and to the spread of state structures and national institutions and the construction of national identities and the pursuit of the nation-state are studied, as are the scientific ideas - such as Social Darwinism - underpinning them. A number of areas are also studied including the population explosion of the nineteenth century, the agricultural and industrial revolutions which helped to sustain it, the dramatic growth of towns, the various waves of emigration to the New World, the European élites, (noble and non-noble, conservative and liberal) and a study of peasants, industrial workers, and some of the social and political movements which played such a prominent role in the shaping of the nineteenth century (including the revolutions of 1830, 1848, 1871 and 1905). Finally, the changing gender roles and ideologies, and the question of whether the century was one of secularization or religious revival are also covered.

Undergraduates are expected to attend all 16 lectures designed for the course, in order to gain a sense of the broad themes and how they interlock, although for their weekly essays they may specialise in the subjects of their choice.

Teaching: 7 tutorials over one or two terms, with submitted essays or essay plans for discussion, or 7 classes

Please note that the options listed above are illustrative and may be subject to change.

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