Critical Approaches to Early Modern History (HISM001)

StaffDr Freyja Cox Jensen - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the main themes and approaches in the study of early modern history. Students will engage with the key theories informing particular approaches to the study of early modern people, places, and societies; they will investigate the sources through which the early modern past can be studied; and they will consider the advantages and difficulties of using various methods. The module will therefore provide students with an essential toolkit for their further study of early modern history. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and evaluate the main themes and approaches in the study of early modern history
  • 2. Possess detailed knowledge of the key historiographical and theoretical debates informing the study of early modern history
  • 3. Assess critically the role of primary sources in informing the study of early modern history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates, and recognise the differences between different approaches and source types.
  • 6. Develop practical research skills in the primary and secondary evidence.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical research, study and thought, including developing the ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 8. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way.
  • 9. Apply key bibliographical skills to independent study.

Syllabus plan

Over the course of one term, potential seminar topics include (these will vary depending on  staff expertise and student choice): What is Renaissance/Early Modern history?; Feminist approaches; Religion; Sex and sexuality; Print, books, reading;  Commercialisation, capitalism, globalisation; Class and social order; Political thought and intellectual history; Visual and material culture; Anthropology and demography; Politics and state-building; and Performance 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study278Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan2-sides A4 maximum1-9Verbal and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Book Review332,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback
Essay674,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book ReviewBook Review1-9Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 1,000 book review and 4,000 word essay as in the original assessment.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

M. De Grazia, ‘the Modern Divide: from Either Side’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 37 (2007)


Merry E. Weisner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, 2000


Kaspar von Greyerz, Religion and Culture in Early Modern Europe Oxford, 2008


Thomas Benjamin, The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans, Indians, and Their Shared History 1400-1900, Cambridge, 2009


Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer eds, Books and Readers in Early Modern England, Philadelphia, PA, 2002


Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner eds, Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, Cambridge, 2005


P. Erickson and C. Hulse eds, Early Modern Visual Culture: Representation, Race, and Empire in Renaissance England, Philadelphia, PA, 2000


 L. Neal and J.G. Williamson eds., The Cambridge History of Capitalism, Volume 1: The Rise of Capitalism: From Ancient Origins to 1848, Cambridge, 2015


P. Crawford ed., Blood, Bodies, and Families in Early Modern England, London, 2004


 R. Bonney, The Rise of the Fiscal State in Europe, Oxford, 1999


Joan W. Scott, ‘Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis’ in Joan W. Scott ed. Feminism and History, Oxford, 1996


Judith M. Bennett, History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism Manchester, 2006


J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment, Princeton, 1975


Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (Yale, 1992)


Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis eds., Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources (Abingdon, 2016)


Alexandra Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1999)


Ulinka Rublack, Reformation Europe (Cambridge, 2005)


Alec Ryrie, Being Protestantin Reformation Britain (Oxford, 2013)


T.H. Aston and C.H.E. Philpin eds. The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe, Cambridge, 1985


Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, 3 Vols, London, 1981-1984


Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England, New York, 1971


Peter Laslett, Household and Family in Past Time, Cambridge, 1972


E.A. Wrigley and R.S. Schofield, The Population History of England 1541-1871: A Reconstruction, Cambridge, 1981


Jack Goody, Joan Thirsk and E.P.Thompson, Family and Inheritance: Rural Society in Western Europe 1200-1800, Cambridge, 1976


James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, Yale, 1990


Web based and electronic resources:


The University Short Title Catalogue


Early English Books Online


English Broadside Ballad Archive


Records of Early English Drama


Early Modern London Theatres


Datasets via CAMPOP

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Renaissance; early modern; social; economic; intellectual