Ours is a world that seems to be shaking at its very foundations. Ideas that have shaped the way we see ourselves and the world around us – ideas like democracy, free speech, citizenship, political authority, individualism, free markets, and human rights – are contested at every turn.
These ideas took their definitive modern form during a period of political and intellectual upheaval known as the Enlightenment. If we want to navigate our way through the chaos of today, then we need to return to the roots of our contemporary world – the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment (roughly 1650-1800) was a politically and intellectually revolutionary period of history that defined the ideas that continue to shape the way we see ourselves and the world we live in - ideas like democracy, free speech, political authority, individualism, egalitarianism, scientific evidence, feminism, and cultural relativism.
By examining this period, this interdisciplinary module provides students with a crucial framework for understanding today's dominant intellectual currents - a framework that proves remarkably useful for students in their second and third year coursework. Indeed, graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they've taken.
Built on a spine of lectures delivered by staff from across the Faculty of Humanities, this interdisciplinary module covers topics such as the aftermath of the Scientific Revolution, free speech, the English civil war, social contract theory, and the great age of discovery and exploration. We will draw on artworks, poetry, novels, political pamphlets and speeches, as well as philosophical texts.
The module will be divided into three thematic blocks. The clusters offered may change from time to time.
The module will demonstrate how all of these topics remain central to our experience today, and how we can learn from past discourses how to understand the present.