Religion and Society in Early Modern Europe (HISM174)

StaffDr Laura Sangha - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Religion and religious belief was at the centre of everyday life in Early Modern Europe, yet between 1450 and 1700, it underwent a profound shift. This module explores the history of religious change in Europe between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, developing a historical analysis of the role religion played in early modern society on familial, local, national and international levels. The module will take a thematic approach to the issue of changing religious understanding, leading from an understanding of the practical spiritual consequences of theological innovation as expressed in the various theological reformations, to investigations of how these changes were felt throughout society with case-study based approaches to key themes and debates in the field. Students will explore a series of topics illustrating the extensive reach of religious change in this period. Topics will include the pre-Reformation World; Luther's Reformation; the spread of the Reformation (changes in the Catholic Church, Calvin and Calvinism, the development and survival of the Church of England); religious radicalism; the problem of the outsider (including witches, gypsies and Jews); religious violence and martyrdom; the cultural impact of the Reformation throughout society; the evolving roles of men, women & children in the light of religious change; changes in the understanding of the natural and physical world; and the cultural impact of the discovery of the New World, the evolving concept of national identities and its relationship with religious belief. This module will introduce students to multiple disciplinary perspectives on the study of religious, social and cultural history  historical, literary, anthropological, sociological and political  and also to a variety of source materials, ranging from contemporary treatises and literature to court cases, music, and art. This module will be of interest to both students of religious and cultural history, but also to those with an interest in identities, gender, intellectual history and media history.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of key themes and issues in the religious and cultural history of early modern Europe
  • 2. Demonstrate an awareness of historiographical and theoretical debates in the various subject areas studied
  • 3. Demonstrate an understanding of the nature and significance of religious, social and cultural change in early modern Europe
  • 4. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of a wide selection of primary source materials and be able to evaluate their historical value critically.
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to evaluate different disciplinary perspectives on religious, social and cultural history
  • 6. Propose and begin work on a dissertation on some aspect of this subject if they so choose.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. Analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence
  • 8. Identify and understand the nature of original sources
  • 9. Critically understand key historical concepts and debates
  • 10. Research independently and present interpretations of different historical issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 11. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical study and thought
  • 12. Apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of online searching aids).
  • 13. Construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 14. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).
  • 15. Analyse, summarise, and organise material to produce a coherent and cogent argument, within specific deadlines

Syllabus plan

Week 1: The Pre-Reformation World Week 2: The End of the World as We Know it: Luther's Reformation and its significance Week 3: Reaction, Revision, Reversion? Explaining the Catholic Reformation, Calvin, and Anglicanism Week 4: Movers and Shakers: Religious Radicalism in European Context Week 5: Solutions to Problems? Religious Violence and Martyrdom Week 6: Cultures of Religion: Print, Music, Art, Literature and Popular Culture Week 7: Holy Households: Changing perspectives on Men, Women and Children Week 8: Communities of Belief: Outsiders and their role in Early Modern Society Week 9: Expanding the mind: New Perspectives on Science and Learning Week 10: Brave New Worlds: The Changing Face of Early Modern Europe Week 11: Conference Workshop with Assessed Presentations

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 activities22seminars
Guided independent study278independent study

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
essay373000 words 1-15written and oral
essay383000 words 1-15written and oral
individual presentation 2525-30 minutes 1-15written and oral

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation World (2000)

D. MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1480-1700 (2003)

E. Cameron, The European Reformation (1991), esp. pts 2-3 A. McGrath, Reformation Thought (1988)

A. Ryrie (ed.), The European Reformations (2006)

P. Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1978; 1994)

L. Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (1989)

R. Briggs, Communities of Belief (1989)

S. Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (1988)

Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978)

B. Scribner, R. Porter and M. Teich (eds), The Reformation in National Context (1994)

P. Benedict, Graphic History: the "Wars, massacres and troubles" of Tortorel and Perrissin (2007)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Online journal articles Other resources: Any other primary source material as provided

Available as distance learning?