Popular Culture in Early Modern England and France

History 103C.002

Fall 2006
Instructor (text): 
204 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
W 12-2
This course is also listed as 103B.009

This seminar will be concerned with the culture and life-experience of ordinary people in the period 1500-1750. Something like 98% of historical scholarship has focused on the elite 2% of early modern populations. This disproportion is understandable in that it was mostly members of elites who wrote and were written about. Getting at the experience of common men and women in the period requires rather more effort and ingenuity. In recent years, some of the most innovative historical work has been done on the ";middling sorts"; and ";lower orders";. In this course, we will be reading and discussing a number of the groundbreaking products of this new social history from scholars dealing with early modern England and France. With respect to common readings and paper topics, there will be four principal areas of concentration:

1) Popular resistance - historical accounts abound on how elites exercised power. Here we will be concerned more with examining strategies for the exercise of power by the underdogs.

2) Women's history - a prominent concentration of social history has been the realities of women's lives - with issues of work roles, gender relations, home and family life being highlighted.

3) Popular devotion - how peoples' actual religious customs and practices related to the official teachings of the established Church.

4) Ritual Practice - the function ritual played in traditional society in helping people cope with threatening conditions and social change.

Coursework will consist of brief written responses to readings and a 12-15 page paper on a topic of interest in one of the areas of concentration. For two of the class meetings, our 'reading' will involve viewing selected films that feature popular culture/social history themes. A substantial portion of students' grades will be based on active participation in seminar discussions. Although not officially listed as a Research 103, because of the methodological challenges inherent in social history, our consideration of creative approaches to primary source material will provide some useful preparation for students interested in doing their 101 on a social topic.

Dr. Elliott teaches courses in British and Early Modern European history. Because artists tend to be perceptive commentators on their times, he often uses artwork as prinary source material along with written texts. Dr. Elliott is working on a book dealing with the popular dimension of religious change in the Reformation era.