Early Modern Britain, 1485-1750

History 151A

Spring 2018
204 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
MWF 12-1
Class Number: 

In order to understand the modern world, one must understand early modern Britain. Why did nation states develop from feudal kingdoms? Why did economic relations get restructured into what is now understood of as capitalism and why does that system seem so intransigent? Why did differences in skin color become justification for enslavement? Why are political hopes seemingly forever caught in a tension between the pessimism that human relations are naturally bent toward a “war of all against all” and the optimism of securing “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property” for everyone universally? Why are all of the course descriptions on this website written in English here at a university situated on the crest of the Pacific Ocean? Modernity could have been many different things, but it unexpectedly turned out to be British.

Throughout this semester, students will engage with the social, economic, political, cultural, and religious histories of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland from roughly 1485 to 1750. Those histories include religious reformation, global exploration, political revolution, social stratification, science, magic, and intellectual enlightenment, among many others. Our studies will take us field-by-field through emerald shires, to the stuffy and severe corridors of Whitehall, and bounding along the salted seas. We will study everyday life and people who wore utterly ludicrous wigs.

Since this is an advanced history course, students will be expected to read deeply, complete frequent writing assignments, take exams, and write a research paper in addition to attending lectures and participating in class discussion.