General History

General History is a second foundation stone of the Final Honour School: a choice of nineteen periods is available, and each student may study one of these. The papers differ from those available in the Preliminary Examination in several important respects. First, the whole of European history from the rise and fall of the later Roman Empire to the Cold War is covered, across fourteen periods. Second, in many of these periods, and increasingly from the sixteenth century onwards, it is possible to study the interaction of European with extraEuropean history; by the late twentieth century, European history is also necessarily world history. Third, there are three papers devoted specifically to American history, and one devoted to the wider world in the nineteenth century, studied as far as possible from a local rather than a Eurocentric perspective.

In 285 it was still possible for a humbly born autocrat to impose his will, more or less, upon an empire which extended almost from the Cheviot to the Sahara, from the Atlantic to the valleys of the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Nile. Within this vast area, which for centuries had been a cultural, economic, political unity, it was still possible for an ordinary citizen to travel anywhere unarmed, if he carried one coinage and spoke two languages. Early in the fifth century a theologian born in Britain, educated at Rome, could by his teaching stampede bishops in Africa and Palestine. the year 476when the last Roman emperor of the West was deposed, signalled an end to this period. Although there was still an emperor in the East, most of Roman Africa, almost all of Roman Europe, had been fragmented into a medley of sub Roman kingdoms ruled by the descendants of German invaders. This is the moment when Edward Gibbon’s history, so aptly entitled Decline and Fall, pauses mid-way, as if to catch its breath.

Few scholars would now agree with Gibbon, when he reflects upon the end of the western Empire, that ‘the story of its ruin is simple and obvious’; but many share his surprise that ‘it had subsisted so long’. In the richly documented fourth century, if we read A.H.M. Jones’s monumental The Later Roman Empire (1964), it is fascinating to see how the Empire actually functioned; its army and bureaucracy, its selfcongratulating aristocracy and intellectuals, the steep-sided, appalling economic pyramid, all those ‘emperors and barbarians, soldiers, landlords and tax-collectors’ brilliantly dismissed by Peter Brown from The World of Late Antiquity (1971); and rightly so, for this was also a century which produced the last great Roman historian (incidentally a Greek who wrote in Latin), the first illustrated edition of Virgil, the greatest autobiography of all antiquity, Augustine’s Confessions, and which even saw the invention (at least on paper) of the paddle steamer. Where Gibbon saw ‘the ripening of the principles of decay’, we might see a renaissance strangled; and see the conversion of Constantine and the progressive Christianization of the Empire, his foundation of a New Rome at the cross-roads of Europe and Asia, as the catalysts of change and survival.

‘Survival’ may be too negative a word for this great age of transition and transformation, yet we must try to answer the questions posed – or evaded – by Gibbon. Were the Empire’s neighbours, the Germans and Persians in particular, its mortal rivals or its partners in a dangerous but fertile symbiosis? Did the Church fatally weaken the Empire with its ‘idle mouths’ and other-worldly teaching, or did it revitalize it? Did Christian unity, imposed by argument if not by force, make for strength or for division? Was ‘heresy’ a human perversity, or the latest flowering of Greek ingenuity, philosophy and intellectual gymnastics? Did paganism fall, or was it pushed? Are these ‘interesting times’ a hazardous age of social mobility, of careers in Church, army and government open to talent, or the dull landscape of repression and conformity painted by imperial legislation? Was late-Roman art and culture going down the easy road of ‘decadence’, or was it striking out in new directions? Why did Byzantium and the East prosper? Why did Rome, the Eternal City, cease to be the capital and lapse into a run-down museum of Roman collaborators ruled by a German king? 

Two events of great symbolic significance frame this period – the final, formal elimination of imperial rule in the western half of the Roman empire in 476 and the installation of a new Abbasid regime in the Caliphate in 750. In a period rife with dramatic shifts of political fortune and impressive military feats, it is easy to become distracted by events such as the creation of a large, unitary Frankish kingdom in Gaul, or Justinian’s determined reassertion of East Roman authority in the West, or the Islamic conquests. But the principal concern of this course will be to encourage analysis of structural change and cross-cultural comparisons.

A wide range of cultures will come under scrutiny. The whole of western Eurasia, from the inner Asian frontiers of Iran to the Atlantic, lies within the potential remit of this period. The overarching theme is that of continuity/discontinuity at all levels of history – economic, social, governmental, religious and cultural. In the economic sphere, students can investigate the sharp contrast between the fortunes of Europe and the Mediterranean on the one hand and the eastern hinterland of the Mediterranean on the other. In the pattern of society, a number of central themes can be examined: in the West the fate of Roman élites in the new Germanic states, the pattern of Germanic settlement, and the interplay between the two cultures. In the East, the initial impermeability of the Slavs to classical culture in central and south-eastern Europe, the far-reaching social effects of Byzantium’s war effort, and the promotion of urban life and the growing tension in relations between Arabs and non-Arabs in the Islamic community. In government, thought must be given to another sharp contrast between West and East: in the latter, developed fiscal systems continued to function, in the former they gradually failed, thereby weakening the institutions and eroding the ideology of centralized monarchical rule. In religious life, the period saw a number of new developments – in particular the spread of monasticism and the rise of the Papacy as an independent force within Western Christendom – but also some important continuities, such as the vital role of the bishop as a force for stability in a rapidly changing world. Finally, a divergence in cultural fortunes between West and East must be registered, although, in this case, continuity characterized Christendom (as exemplified by the collectors and systematisers of knowledge such as Boethius and Isidore of Seville), while in the East the coming of Islam eventually brought about a complete cultural revolution.

General History II confronts undergraduate historians with a number of fascinating problems that require a direct appraisal of the surviving evidence (how much faith to put in hagiographical sources? how much can be read into a highly selective archaeological record of trading activities? how much have historical narratives been shaped by a wish to present a very particular image of the past?). It demands that polities and cultures be studied in the round, as whole systems of interconnected economic, social, institutional and ideological phenomena, and, thanks to the accessibility and manageability of the source material makes it possible for undergraduates to do so. It encourages sound judgment and controlled imagination. It introduces undergraduates to what is undoubtedly the formative period in which the main component parts of modern western Eurasia took shape. 

This period began with the frontiers of Christendom shrinking under the impact of Islam to the smallest area that it ever occupied after Constantine’s conversion and concluded with writers using the word ‘Europe’ in a recognizably contemporary sense. One of the pivotal periods of European history by any standards, it was also one of expansion in almost all areas of human activity.

The central episode from most points of view was the reign of Charlemagne the most powerful ruler that Western Europe saw between the end of the Roman empire and the reign of his namesake Charles V It was an era of ideological reform; a Renaissance conceived literally as society’s spiritual rebirth through observance of the Bible and the pressure to reform generated prodigious growth in the output of books Intellectually, the period was one of vigorous theological controversy, which was already raising some of the central issues of the Reformation (predestination, the Eucharist) 700 years before Luther. Developments in the visual arts left no less palpable marks in manuscript illumination of vivid creativity, and in the first monumental buildings to survive north of the Alps since Roman times – most obviously Charlemagne’s own palace chapel at Aachen.

The Franks may be the central characters of the period, but it was also one of major developments in other parts of the documented world. The Papacy began to reorientate itself from allegiance to the emperor at Constantinople in favour of a more obviously western outlook. Having narrowly escaped extinction at the hands of Islam, the Byzantine Empire began the recovery that would restore most of its old frontiers and glory by 1000, and also commenced the expansion of its influence among the Slavs, leading to the conversion of the Bulgars. The Islamic caliphate itself, based at Baghdad, was certainly the most prosperous, urbanized, literate and generally ‘civilized’ society that the known world had seen since the end of Antiquity. In the other corners of Europe, a rival Arab dynasty in Spain was forging the state and culture that would make it the most formidable and colourful polity in the tenth-century West; while in the far North, the ‘Vikings’ burst into the consciousness of literate man in a movement that was not only one of ‘Vikings’ but also of urban and commercial growth throughout the North and West of Europe. These settlements east of the Baltic are the acknowledged origins of Russia, and whose North Atlantic adventures created in the Icelandic republic the first major stepping-stone in Europe’s route to the New World.

Among the most attractive features of earlier medieval history is the amount that is not and never will be known about it. There is always scope for debate and speculation. But this much is certain: while any period of western history can lay claim to its own special importance, the Carolingian era saw more seminal developments than most.

This option offers you the challenge of coming to grips with societies quite different from our own, whether they are those of the emerging medieval kingdoms and churches of Western Europe or the neighbouring and more developed worlds of the Byzantine Empire and Muslim Caliphates of Cordova and Baghdad. You can now also approach the period through a rich body of translated sources as well as material sources (e.g. Romanesque churches, illuminated manuscripts, archaeology, and numismatics). In the West the period opens with the invasions of Vikings, Arabs and Magyars following the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, focussing as much on the fragmentation of authority as on the gradual formation of the new kingdoms and empires which were to hold sway for much of the Middle Ages. Instead of taking the rule of kings and nobles for granted, you are encouraged to ask what the bases of their power and authority were, looking at topics such as sacral authority and ritual, kinship and giftgiving, rebellion and feud, and the way in which castle building transformed the landscape of power. The tenets of classic works such as Marc Bloch’s Feudal Society (1961) will be explored and questioned. The role of monasteries, the church and the miraculous (the cult of saints) provide further central themes. The nature of religious reform will come into stark relief, whether in relation to monasteries such as Cluny and Gorze in the tenth century, or in relation to the eleventh-century papal reform movement named after Gregory VII, which established the papacy as a central institution in the Middle Ages and beyond. By the end of the period we see the first stirrings of the twelfth-century renaissance, brought alive by sources such as the letters of Abelard and Heloïse.

Any attempt to analyze what life was like for those within this world will lead you to consider the extent to which we are still dealing with a subsistence economy at the beginning of this period but one in which we can chart the increasingly vigorous stirrings of a moneyed and market-orientated economy. With the emergence of Venice, Genoa and the towns of Flanders and the Baltic it becomes possible to speak with confidence of urban life and long-distance trade for the first time since the decline of the Roman Empire. At one level the peasantry can be viewed as mere chattels of the élite, but from other angles it is population growth, the peasant land market and peasant colonization which provided the most dynamic and decisive forces shaping this period. Consideration of the role of women will challenge the idea that development was all one way; for instance, in the late tenth century the German Empire, West Francia, Lorraine and England were all ruled by women on behalf of their sons.

Many students will concentrate on Western Europe, turning to neighbouring societies as points of comparison and contrast, but for others these neighbouring societies will be central to their work. Key areas for study include: the relations between Muslim and Christian Spain, the former with a far more developed economy and culture than anything in the West during this period; the wider Muslim world centred on the vast metropolis of Baghdad; the First Crusade, pogroms and the Jewish communities of Europe and the Middle East; the Byzantine Empire which can be glimpsed so vividly through the translated writings of Liudprand, Psellus and Anna Comnena; and the emergence of the kingdom of the Russ through a process of ethnogenesis between Slavs and Vikings.

This is a crucial period for the formation of Europe. It is no less fundamental for the shaping of Europe’s relations with the wider world. The idea of a united Christendom was given its fullest expression by the expanding Roman papacy, which at this period sponsored the crusade movement for Christian control of the eastern Mediterranean, southern Iberia, and north-eastern Europe. An ironic victim of this campaign would be the capital of the eastern empire of Byzantium, which yet survived as a potent member of the uneasy Christian commonwealth. Meanwhile the universal ideals of the western pope and emperor were challenged by newly developing ideas of government in principalities and cities. Rapidly growing populations presented both social challenges and economic and political opportunity. Experiments in communal living and the limitation of conflict in the towns of Italy and Flanders would leave a vital legacy of practical experience and political thought to later generations. Equally experimental were the new religious orders, whose potential for disturbing the status quo was epitomized in the eccentric figure of St Francis. In France and in Aragon, new reasons of state were advanced to justify the growing pretensions of monarchy. Debate on all these issues was fed by the new universities – which, with the Gothic cathedrals, stand out amongst the inventions of the period – where scholars digested ancient Greek learning mediated by contact with the Arab world.

Running through the course is the motif of cultural exchange, which can be studied in the Byzantine mosaics and Islamic-influenced architecture of Norman Sicily, or in the equally hybrid society of Iberia, where Jews, Christians and Muslims constantly renegotiated their mutual relationships. The homogenizing ideology of Church and Empire was everywhere qualified and subverted by local culture, manifested in the sources in regional religious cults and heresies of various kinds, linguistic and artistic diversity and popular social movements. Accessible primary materials offer infinite ways into the interpretation of this rich and problematic period. 

In all areas of human life the fourteenth century saw momentous change and fascinating developments. Climate change and microbiological alterations combined to cause droughts and harvest failures, together with plagues amongst animals and humans. From 1348 epidemic disease was recurrent, and this had massive effects on economic and social history. Plague caused significant changes in the relationship not only between lords and peasants, but also within trade networks, forced to undergo substantial restructuring after a period of rapid expansion. The period saw the rise of international banking and a huge financial crisis in the 1340s when the kings of England and France defaulted on the loans used to pay for the Hundred Years War. The political history of the period used to be written as a confusing mass of inconclusive wars, the retreat of centralized states, and failed popular rebellions, but this is being rewritten in all sorts of interesting ways. The dynastic kingdom was only one amongst many vibrant political forms that included city states, urban leagues, and noble confederations. Aristocratic elites enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy and were a major focus of political life, but political society was expanding wherever states and tax burdens grew. The papacy was also a major political player, and an enormously influential institution in legal and religious terms as well. In many regions popular rebellion was at once an expression of political crisis but also vitality and creativity. As well as the western European polities, it is interesting to study the principality of Muscovy, the union of Polish and Lithuania, and the rise of the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia and the Balkans. The cultural life of the period can be approached first hand through the products of burgeoning vernacular literatures such as the Tuscan ‘greats’ Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch, and though architecture and the visual arts. This was also a period in which there were substantial and fascinating debates and disagreements within universities; debates which also crossed over into lay society. Religious literature, including saints’ lives, spiritual autobiographies, and manuals of instruction fed a growing demand for direct engagement with religion in which the laity came to take just as active a role as the clergy. In places this growing demand manifested itself as heresy, and the church responded with systematic campaigns of education and persecution. 

The long fifteenth century is a period of spectacular cultural change, political dynamism, technological development and religious ferment, whose study is sustained by a rich and easily accessible body of source material.

The concept of ‘The Renaissance’ provides an opportunity to analyze the interplay of innovation and tradition in a number of different contexts, written and visual. At the same time, the religious life of lay people in the period was in many ways transformed: unprecedented evidence of popular piety is contemporaneous with massive movements of dissent among Hus’s Czechs or Luther’s Germans. Political historians once tagged the period the age of ‘new monarchy’. Some more-or-less monarchical systems did acquire greater cohesiveness, for reasons that you may wish to explore, but the scope for political enquiry and comparison goes a lot further than that. The period saw challenging assertions of consultative principles (not least within the Catholic church), a rich proliferation of city-states and cityleagues and some ambitious plans for dynastic aggrandisement, from the Trastámara of Iberia to the house of Jagiellon in East-Central Europe.

‘Christian Europe’ is itself a notion that invites critical reflection. In the Spanish lands, centuries of Christian-Islamic-Jewish coexistence were coming to a close, but to the East, Islam was acquiring new force in Ottoman form; there was a world beyond, opening, for better or worse, to European encounters. By the end of the period, Cortés was in Mexico and Sebastian del Cano safely home – the first mariner in history to circumnavigate the globe. 

For some historians the 16th century is a moment of such deep, multi-faceted crisis in Europe that they have likened it to the Apocalypse. A complete breakdown of the medieval world, it was a century of profound change which left contemporaries deeply shaken as seeds sown in the later Middle Ages bore fruit – both destructive, and creative.

The sixteenth century in Europe was, above all, the age of Reformation. Historians are still debating why an ostensibly traditional academic dispute in a minor German university in 1517 ripped medieval Christendom apart – giving princes new opportunities to extend their power over their subjects, inspiring peasants and urban artisans to violent social revolution, launching a wave of religious wars, reconfiguring social and cultural life, inspiring a militant self-reinvention by the papacy and Catholic hierarchy, and ultimately dividing Europe into two bitterly polarised confessional camps. This paper offers students the opportunity to explore the Reformation and its effects from many different angles – theological, cultural, and political – in every corner of Europe, from the students of Luther’s Wittenberg, to the convents of Counter Reformation Spain, to the radical Calvinist magnates of Lithuania. Current research on the Reformation tends to focus on its reception, rejection or adaptation by people on the ground.

The sixteenth century was also an age of European superpowers. In the late Middle Ages princes had battled for regional or local hegemony, but in this period the Habsburgs fought for predominance over all Christian Europe, led by the ‘World emperor’, Charles V. New military techniques and hardware were developed, as were new forms of high finance to fund these titanic clashes. As part of this paper, students can delve into the development of all the major polities of Reformation Europe; France, mired in civil and foreign wars, the Low Countries and their great anti-Habsburg Revolt, the state-building of the popes and Italian prince, the rise of Muscovite autocracy, and the Golden Ages of Habsburg Spain and Jagiellonian Poland-Lithuania. Historians are examining what the power of these new centralising states rested on, how it was articulated, and how it was experienced by subjects.

Some of the most innovative social history and historical anthropology of past decades has taken the sixteenth century as its subject. As Cunningham and Grell would remind us, the sixteenth century was a time of fear ; fear of devil-worshipping witches hidden within godly Christian communities, fear of deviant sexual behaviour, fear of the new epidemics sweeping Europe, fear of poverty and famine, in a period of demographic explosion;,fear of an all-out Ottoman conquest of Christendom. This was also an age of intellectual ferment, as many of the epic cultural developments of the fifteenth century (humanism, the birth of the printing industry, Italian Renaissance art) grew into maturity. There is a lively scholarship on the intellectual culture of Reformation Europe, on astrologers such as Girolamo Cardano, master printers such as Aldus Manutius and academic superstars like Erasmus of Rotterdam. Paradoxically, the sixteenth century was not only an age of crisis and questioning, but also an age of expansion through trade, conquest and settlement, Spain and Portugal built empires in the Americas, Caribbean, Africa and East Asia.

The course gives students the chance to explore how this new global context affected European perceptions and beliefs, and to discover what happened when Catholic missionaries tried to convert the ruling elites of China, Sri Lanka and Japan. From Luther’s protest in 1517 to the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618, this paper covers a century of transformations, in Europe and beyond.  

The seventeenth century is above all an age of violent and extreme contrast. The century was seared by the experience of savage and destructive mercenary armies waging thirty years of warfare at the expense of civilian populations, warfare which seemed capable of threatening the entire political, social and economic order. Yet it was also supposedly the century of ‘absolute monarchy’, shaped by powerful, centralized and triumphalist dynastic rule. European societies were characterised by the coexistence of unprecedented extremes of wealth and poverty: unparalleled conspicuous consumption amongst the élites coexisted with subsistence crises which could kill 10% of the ordinary population through hunger and disease. The great majority of peasants and townspeople existed in a state of dayto-day economic misery that would have been outside the experience of most of their greatgrandparents. It was a century of unparalleled courtly grandeur, extraordinary artistic and cultural sophistication and dramatic developments in science and philosophy. Yet the baroque magnificence of church architecture or court drama, the ground-breaking thought of Descartes or Newton, occurred in societies which were for the most part violent, confessionally intolerant and economically stagnant, and whose populations were parochial, traditional and justifiably suspicious and hostile of any external authority or intervention.

Study of General History IX seeks to provide a detailed introduction to the European territories during the seventeenth century, though with considerable opportunity to extend the examination to Asia and the Americas. The aim is to provide studentswith an opportunity to think extensively about major issues shaping states and societies, and about historical approaches which have been forged in this ‘century of contrasts’, and which have done much to challenge traditional interpretations of political, social and cultural history. Seventeenth-century European studies have figured largely in many of the key historiographical currents of the twentieth century, whether the methodological challenges posed by the Annales school, structuralist critiques of traditional social and cultural history, or the rejection of étatist, bureaucratic/centralizing models of political development. Thus for many tutors the study of ‘absolutism’ in seventeenth-century states provides the opportunity to encourage far-reaching reconsideration of the mechanisms of political power in the early modern state, the limitations upon central authority and the persistence of societies based upon localized power and privilege. Similarly detailed studies of war and society can raise fundamental questions about the Weberian paradigm linking expanding military demands with bureaucratic rationalization and state development. Elsewhere, studies of the imposition of the catholic and protestant reformations, repression of crime and the treatment of minorities and those on the margins of society allow the student to make use of extensive recent work calling into question dichotomies such as ‘popular’ and ‘élite’, and exploring concepts such as acculturation and syncretism as alternatives to simplified models of ‘top-down’ imposition. The great age of baroque and classicism also offers students the possibility of pursuing both seventeenth-century and modern debates about the relationship between art and patronage, about the projection of power through art and wider cultural manifestations. It is equally possible to slant the course towards economic history, examining profound shifts in patterns of trade, the rapid development of commercial colonialism, the ascendancy of mercantilist doctrines and their political and social impact. 

You will encounter a significant number of these broad themes during the course. While this may be in the form of tutorial assignments examining large-scale, Europe-wide topics – peasant revolts, witchcraft persecution, political theory, the spread of baroque art – many tutors and students choose to focus on the experience of political, social, economic or cultural issues in particular territorial contexts, whether within or outside Europe, building up a number of individual case studies from which comparisons can be made and broader patterns extrapolated. This combination of broad thematic questions and those focusing on territorially specific problems is reflected both in the lecture coverage for General History IX, and in the examination papers. The course is an obvious complement for either Further Subject 11, ‘Society and Government in France, 1610-1715’, or 12, ‘Court Culture and Art in Early Modern Europe’, or for Special Subject 11, ‘The Scientific Movement in the Seventeenth Century’. 

The eighteenth century offers you the opportunity to study the foundations of the modern world. After nearly a century of stagnation, population and economy began to grow and by 1800 Europe was the most developed commercial civilization the world had ever known. Economic growth, however, entailed growing social dislocation as the greater affluence of the few meant increased poverty and insecurity for the many. Economic growth, too, made it increasingly difficult to integrate new and old wealth within a society which associated rank with inherited and corporate privilege. Meanwhile the dominant Augustinian form of Christianity which underpinned that society was itself under attack from the new, much more egalitarian and secular ideology of the Enlightenment. Across Europe the philosophes and their allies made human betterment in this world the focus of their writing. Since many princes and their advisors after 1750 took up these new ideas in the hope that the abolition of the corporative society would increase the state's ability to mobilize its subjects’ resources, the stage was set for a battle royal between many of Europe’s governments and the privileged orders, which culminated in the American War of Independence and the French Revolution of 1789. While this provided an opportunity for the ideas of the Enlightenment finally to be turned into reality, it also proved the prelude to a decade of war as the French Revolutionaries, divided amongst themselves, attempted to impose their view of the new Jerusalem on the rest of the continent as well as on French men and women. In such a period of conflict and change, there is no shortage of topics for you to study in tutorials. Central topics are the Enlightenment, the leading ‘Enlightened absolutists’ (Frederick of Prussia, Catherine of Russia, Joseph II, Charles VIII of Naples and III of Spain), the failure of administrative and fiscal reform in France, or the outbreak and impact of the French Revolution. There are, however many other topics in economic, social and cultural history which you can explore, among them popular culture and changing attitudes to women and children.

Nor need your attention be confined to Europe. The eighteenth century was a period when Europe and the rest of the world were more tightly bound together than ever before. There is a large amount of secondary literature in English on the American Revolution and the framing of the 1787 Constitution. The decline of the Mughal Empire in India and the coming of the British to Bengal are also well covered, as is the development of Spanish America in the eighteenth century. It is also possible now to study Japanese, Chinese and aspects of African history.

This period of General History is usually taught as a Europe-centred paper, and deals with such issues as rapid but uneven industrialization, the growth of large cities, the shift from a society of orders to one of classes, concerted state-building and the emergence of fundamental ideologies of liberalism, democracy, socialism and nationalism, secularization and religious revival, the first manifestations of feminism, together with the Romantic movement in art and literature. The destructive and constructive force of the French Revolution was transported across Europe through the Napoleonic Empire, an increasingly bureaucratic state system. Through the Congress system European powers sought to control the revolutionary nationalism generated by France, while governing élites struggled to find a balance between order and liberty. The liberal, democratic, socialist and nationalist forces which challenged the established order came to a head in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848-9. The struggle for nation-building was characterized by a decade of war involving Italy, Austria, France and Germany, a period of political reaction coupled with intense modernization and continuing radical unrest. These processes culminated in the unifications of Italy and Germany, the collapse of the second empire and attempts at extensive reform in Russia. The period ends in 1871, with the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune.

The paper is usually studied partly comparatively, partly on a country by country basis, looking at such issues as Italian nationalism, the debates over German integration, the failure of the monarchy to reestablish itself in France and the experience of autocracy in Russia. Outside Europe, it is possible to study the United States (slavery, the Frontier, Jacksonian democracy and the American Civil War), British rule in India and the Indian Mutiny, the Latin American revolutions, the Greek and Egyptian revolts against the Ottoman Empire, and the impact of the west on China and Japan, leading to such phenomena as the Taiping rebellion and the Meiji restoration. Altogether the paper deals with a crucial period which witnessed the painful emergence of modern Europe and a decisive phase in the relations between Europe and the wider world.

Although European history remains central to this paper, the period between 1856-1914 saw ‘the first era of globalization’ marked by the laying of oceanic telegraph cables, the completion of transcontinental railways in the US (1869) and Russia (1905), and the opening of the Suez (1869) and Panama (1914) canals. This led to massive movements of goods, capital and people assisted by economic developments such as the ‘Gold Standard’ and the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’ (the application of science to industry). Globalization and industrialization created crises as peasant agriculture and handcraft industries – both in Europe and across the world – could not compete with mass produced imports, nor with migrant labour. As we move towards the First World War, protectionism and xenophobia grew in the metropoles, while in the imperial arena European powers competed to grab raw materials and markets. But the period also witnessed the growth of an internationalism and humanitarian intervention. Those nations outside western authority, such as the Ottoman, Chinese and Japanese empires, responded to these challenges with mixed results. However, around 1900 there are signs of the waning of western power, as imperial states such as Spain, Italy and Russia were all defeated overseas.

Rapid industrialization, urbanization and population growth also posed challenges for European governments, whether nation states like the newly unified Italy and Germany or multi-ethnic empires such as Russia and Austro-Hungary. Liberal regimes and autocrats were threatened from both the Left with the rise of organized labour and the Right with the rise of new radical populist movements. In the ‘age of the masses’ national, regional, ethnic, religious and even gender identities were increasingly politicized. Governments responded with nation-building through compulsory schooling and military service, and social welfare, but not always with the desired results. Both society and the state were threatened with violent fragmentation in revolution and separatist revolt, and this in turn fed conflict in international relations. Fragmentation was also visible in the fields of the arts and sciences, with a plethora of new movements attempting to capture the experience of rapid change (such as impressionism and expressionism), or comprehend it (the rise of the social sciences). And yet, despite all these crises and confusions, European states and societies were coping, conflict was not inevitable. Many of the developments covered in this paper – socialism, the ‘new woman’, consumerism, and psychoanalysis among them – were disorientating for some but invigorating for others: change carried promise as well as threats.

As with other General History papers this one is taught by means of tutorials and lectures. Relevant lecture series may run in different terms and different years, so check the general scheme in both your final years. 

The period from the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 to the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989 forms a divided unity. Often referred to as Europe’s short 20th century, it was marked by two world wars and the cold war. The First World War led to unprecedented policies of state and social mobilization, and ended in revolution, civil wars and large-scale acts of ethnic cleansing. The collapse of the multinational empires of central and eastern Europe was accompanied by experiments at reshaping the nation state in line with competing authoritarian and democratic ideologies, while repeated economic crises challenged both national and European orders. This culminated in the overlapping military, political and ideological conflicts of the period that we term the Second World War, but which in fact encompassed a wide range of discrete conflicts from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, and which brought about the massive reshaping of the Continent, and its division into two selfcontained entities. If the first half of this period (1914-45) was marked by instability and violent extremism culminating in genocide, the second half (1945-89) was remarkable for its relative stability and, especially in Western Europe, affluence. Political protesters in 1968 consciously adopted different methods from those of the earlier period, just as the economic crises in the 1970s were resolved in quite different ways from those of the 1920s and 30s. When Central and Eastern Europe were swept by popular revolutions in 1989, they did not follow the same course as the revolutions of 1917-21.

This new Global History paper covers twentieth century from the Great Depression and lead-up to the Second World War to the Second Iraq War. It explores the period of mid-century global conflict, the Cold War and the post-Cold War era from 1989 that is still unfolding.

The centre of gravity is outside Europe and in a sense there is no centre to the perspective taken by the paper at all. It combines multiple perspectives, that of the post-colonial alongside the ex-colonial world, of the communist alongside the non-communist world, of the developing world alongside the developed world. It is not an ‘area studies’ paper exploring discrete regions; rather it approaches key issues and themes in twentieth-century history as global problems with regional and local manifestations. It will include North America and Europe (and the UK) to the extent that these too were impacted upon or ‘entangled’ in global processes, for example in those of decolonization, globalization and environmentalism.

The paper will be divided into three parts: A. Wars and Geopolitics, c. 1930-c.1989; B. Global Disorders, c. 1989-2003; C. Global Cross-currents across the whole period. W

This option is designed to introduce you to the formative period of American History. Lectures and tutorial provision stress the point that Britain’s colonies on the mainland of North America possessed a distinctive history from the moment of first settlement. That history originated in the unintended, and unmanageable, consequences of the attempt to transplant and nurture old world institutions in a ‘new world’ environment. The course is centred on the interplay between expectation and experience. Tutors develop the theme of cultural adaptation and divergence in varying ways. However, the main emphasis of teaching in this option rests on cultural factors. Students learn of the unintended ‘democratization’ of cultural and political institutions wrought by an abundance of land and by the distinctive demographic characteristics of colonial societies. They examine the paradoxes which adhere to the codification and defense of slavery in a ‘land of opportunity’. They learn of relations between settlers and indigenes; relations which promised cooperation but delivered a chauvinistic, and yet curiously insecure, sense of American identity. The institutional and theological history of America’s protestant denominations, and the influence of religion in American life in this period, are themes which receive detailed coverage. Moreover, throughout the course and especially in its dedicated lecture series, you are made aware that the organizing theme of this offering – the old world in the new – challenges the assumptions of other, paradigmatic interpretations; chiefly the environmental determinism of Frederick Jackson Turner, the ‘psychological’ determinism of Daniel Boorstin, and the cultural determinism of David Hackett Fischer.

A secondary aim of the course is to introduce you to the origins and influence of regional diversity in the American past. All tutors point out the differences between life on the Chesapeake and life in Puritan New England. All tutors ask students to consider why culturally distinctive colonies could unite in opposition to Britain, and whether and how their unity in that cause informed the history of the early republic. Lectures, and some tutorial assignments, add to this theme an appreciation of the ‘middle colonies’, or the ‘lower south’, or the ‘old northwest’. In this way students are exposed to readings which ask them to assess the origins, the strengths, and the weaknesses of American national identity in this period. Tutors in this option expect examination papers to contain a mixture of questions, some relatively specific as to region or period, others designed to test the student’s understanding of the broad sweep of American history.

The design of the course assumes little or no previous knowledge of American history. In practice many students go on from this course to take other American papers, though the course, through its interest in the “Atlantic World,” complements several nominally British options.

At the heart of this option is the issue of how the thirteen loosely-bound colonies of 1776 and the plural states of 1787 were forged into an indestructible, singular American nation. The leaders of the Revolutionary generation put into place new constitutional and governmental structures that would be pushed to breaking point over the next three generations, as the new nation sought to come to terms with profound social, economic and cultural changes. The course addresses these developments, which included stunning territorial expansion, through purchase and military conquest, which filled out the continental United States to the shape we recognize today; the uprooting and forcible westward expulsion of settled, indigenous Indian tribes; the quadrupling of an ethnically and racially diverse population through natural reproduction and mass immigration; a communications and market revolution that drew previously self-sufficient and local economies into a system of national as well as international commerce; the entrenchment and expansion of one of the most formidable slave-based economies the New World; a surge of Protestant evangelicalism that sacralized the landscape, shaped social relations and gender roles, prompted a host of reform movements and encouraged millennial expectations. At the same time the more deferential republican polity of the 1770s and 1780s swiftly evolved into the world’s first mass democracy, in which recognizably modern political parties – run by a new professional type, the party manager – mediated the relationship between government and ‘the sovereign people’.

The option explores the evolving and ultimately incompatible perspectives on American identity and destiny held by a free-labour North and a slave-holding South. Addressing the power of republican and religious ideologies and the competing claims of liberty, equality and individualism, the course considers the political process by which the sections tumbled towards the Civil War. It assesses the view of the conflict as a ‘total war’, and examines the strength of Confederate nationalism, the complex motivation of wartime Unionists, the role of slaves themselves in securing their own freedom, and the extent to which, in the post-emancipation era of Reconstruction, the old Union gave way to a new nation. This paper demands no previous knowledge of American history. It is taught through tutorials and through a course of twice-weekly lectures during Michaelmas Term.

It may be useful, albeit problematic, to view the end of American Civil War in 1865 as marking a second beginning for the American nation. With the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the federal government embarked on an effort to reconstruct relations between the races, hitherto defined by the institution of slavery, and to define the elusive concept of ‘freedom’. This, together with the war that had led to emancipation, had powerful implications for the American system of government. The immutability of the Union was newly established, and the previous pattern of federalism would never be fully re-established. That said, federal Reconstruction lasted for only a dozen years, and by the turn of the 20th century the formal freedoms that it had granted to African Americans counted for little, as a system of rigid racial segregation and repression known as ‘Jim Crow’ took hold in the American South. As W.E.B. DuBois had predicted at its beginning, the existence of the ‘colour line’ helped to define the political struggles of the 20th century, which climaxed with the post-World War II civil rights movement. Relations between the races provide one of the central themes of this course, in part because of their intrinsic significance and interest, but also due to their effects on other areas of American life.. We will then move into war. Starting with the Revolutionary War, the history of the United States has been punctuated by wars that have had powerful, and often unintended, impacts on the development of the American economy, on the distribution of wealth (between individual, races, and regions), on the political system, and on the rights of women. The civil war, the Spanish-American war, the two world wars, and post-1945 conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East will all be covered in GHXVII, both in terms of the development of foreign policy, and in terms of those domestic impacts.

Recent historians of the United States have been much interested in the rise of the State, and also in the limits to the expansion (compared to other western industrial societies). In the late 19th century, the projection of federal power took the form mainly of Indian fighting and the disposal of public land, but – starting in the late 19th century – growing calls were heard for a stronger federal role in regulating the national economy, and in ameliorating the great inequalities of wealth and power that had emerged during the massive economic expansion of the period. (Two manifestations of this impulse were Populism, and Progressivism.) That expansion provides a leitmotiv of national development between 1865 and 1929, and another theme of this paper. Among its manifestations and consequences were mass immigration (until the 1920s), urbanization (since 1920, the United States has been a predominantly urban nation), environmentalism (the first national park was created in the 1870s), and radical political protest movements (including a promising socialist movement and enormous labour unrest). The period was also marked both by a strong evangelical awakening (sometimes termed the Third Great Awakening, to distinguish it from those of the 18th and early 19th centuries), and by a more humanist faith in the power of experts and new knowledge to solve hitherto unyielding problems such as poverty, alcoholism, and disease. There were obvious tensions between these two developments, but both were apparent in the Progressive Movement (for example in the ‘social gospel’ movement), which – accordingly – has resisted easy categorization by historians.

The lecture course that accompanies GH XVII is attentive to all of these historiographical tendencies, assessing them with thematic reference to struggles for racial, economic, and gender equality.

This paper provides an introduction to some cutting edge developments in world history by focusing on the history of empires in the period before the West dominated the globe. Students therefore have the opportunity to explore pre-modern societies outside of the West on their own terms and in all their cultural diversity.

This was the period that saw the first real seaborne empires launched from Europe following Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India in 1498. The oceanic exploits of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and then British that followed, therefore form one focus of the course. However, the heart of the paper lies in Asia, with the great territorial empires that sprawled across the Eurasian landmass: the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, and the realms of China, Japan and Southeast Asia. (There is also an opportunity to study the New World and Atlantic Africa).

Students will reflect on the methods the ruling elites of these vast new states used for governing disparate regions, how their plans were made and undone by demographic and economic expansion or the implacable force of climate change, and what ideologies and forms of justification they devised. Did it follow, for example, that imperial centres would conceive of the peoples on their borders as barbarians, or even racially inferior? How could they harness or defuse the explosive potential of religious fervour or the movements of missionaries? What inspired the rebellions against them? The other major thematic concern is the extent to which the whole world participated in an ‘early modern’ age: can we identify this period as the first genuine phase of globalization? Can we trace similar changes in administrative innovation, commercial growth, or even newly emancipated forms of intellectual life across such different societies? If we can identify some common developments, how then can we explain the fact that by the end of the period the great agrarian empires suddenly seemed vulnerable? If it is possible to consider the Portuguese as mere waterborne parasites in 1500, by 1800 the British were more like locusts devouring large chunks of India.

The question of a global ‘early modernity’ represents one of the most controversial areas of modern historiographical debate, with significant implications for the return of grand narrative and visions of the long term. The course also represents an introduction to doing comparative history in a systematic way, and should help students prepare for the Disciplines paper in finals. The other main method of world history is also introduced: with connected history, historians have become more imaginative in tracing the ways in which far-flung societies were interconnected in sometimes unexpected ways, through the circulation of millenarian ideas associated with kingship among a number of Islamic realms, or the political consequences of the dissemination of firearms. Understanding encounters across cultural divides is part of this: how should one interpret Jesuit reports from the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar, or Persian ambassadors writing about their encounter with Theravada Buddhism in the royal city of Ayudhya?

This course has replaced the previous General paper ‘Europe and the Wider World 1815-1914’. Its purpose is to offer a more distinctively ‘global’ approach to the world history of this period. What this means in practice is: an emphasis upon the significance of mobility and exchange – in goods, ideas and people – across Eurasia, the Americas, and Africa; upon supra-regional phenomena, including religions, patterns of consumption, environmental stresses and the differential impact of scientific and technical knowledge; and on the reciprocal influences exerted on each other by European, Asian, African and other societies. Asia and Africa may have been influenced by Europe, but the reverse was equally true. 1750 is an arbitrary starting point, but it marks, perhaps, the beginnings of a decisive shift in the relative position of the strongest European states and societies on the one hand and those of other parts of Eurasia on the other, and the onset of what some historians have called ‘the great divergence’ between the East and the West which, in wealth and power, has lasted into our own times. Part of the aim of the course is to consider some of the reasons for this, but also the factors behind the remarkable resilience of many Asian societies, Islamic and other. Inevitably, the assertion of European imperial power is an important part of the story. But there were other empires in Eurasia (the Ottoman, Qajar and Qing) with a strong instinct for survival and considerable success in keeping the Europeans at bay. What allowed them to do so? This period is also one in which an astonishing range of new communities was formed in response to unprecedented levels of migration by Asians and Africans as well as Europeans; to the revolution in communications which allows a sense of community to extend over thousands of miles; to the economic changes associated with industrialisation and the creation of labour-hungry plantation and mining economies; and to the shifts in status and culture that encouraged new solidarities around gender or race, as well as reinforcing old ones based on religion.

The course will be taught through lectures and tutorials. The main lecture course will be in Michaelmas term and will consist of 16 lectures, designed to allow for a period of questions and discussion within the hour. In their tutorial programme, students will be required to write on a set of ‘thematic’ topics, as well as choosing from a list of ‘world regions’ in which to specialise. These include East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Atlantic, and the ‘neo-Europes’ of Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Here the emphasis will be less on the ‘internal’ histories of these regions, as on their connections with each other and with Europe.

Tutorial provision will be mainly available in the Michaelmas term, to coincide with the lecture course. Those interested in taking this paper are encouraged to think in advance about which region may be of particular interest to them.

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

Assessment: A 3-hour written examination takes place at the end of the Trinity Term. This accounts for one seventh of the overall mark.

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

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