Europe Transformed: 1450-1750

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The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 28 June 2024
31 March 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module focuses on the time that historians call `the early modern period`, a span of around 250 years, which is often depicted as the watershed between the `medieval` and `the modern`. This period saw momentous changes such as the Reformation which divided European religion, new contact between Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and the birth of colonialism. You will find some elements of this period strikingly different, while in other aspects, you will find it surprisingly familiar.

The overarching questions that we will seek to answer are:

- What exactly was changing in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe – political systems, social structures, cultural horizons? – and why?

- How did different individuals, social groups, or particular communities and regions experience these changes?

- To what degree did continuity as opposed to change play an important role in shaping the early modern world?

In order to answer these questions we will explore how people across Europe, and beyond, experienced the changes across this period by examining themes including: European expansion and conquest in the Americas; religious and cultural change, including the Reformation; the issue of state-building across Europe (including the British Isles) as well as the Ottoman Empire; social order and social change, including gender and the issue of poverty; and challenges to order, including rebellion, warfare and witchcraft.

Module aims

This module aims to:

1. Introduce the broad chronology and key themes of the history of the early modern period, as a foundation for modules in subsequent years of study.
2. Explain how historians make sense of the past by constructing arguments for their interpretations, and how to identify these arguments when reading secondary sources.
3. Introduce the diversity of ways in which historians can interpret the past.
4. Familiarise students with a wide range of primary sources from the past, and how they can be analysed

Module learning outcomes

By taking the module you will be given the opportunity to develop the following skills:

1. Become familiar with studying the history of people and communities whose lives were very different from our own experiences
2. Develop confidence in reading academic historical writing with a focus on identifying and analysing interpretation and argument
3. Gain skills in analysing primary sources of many kinds
4. Gain confidence in completing typical university-level assignments in history such as essays and source analyses

Module information

You are likely to want to gain background knowledge of early modern European history. The following textbooks provide useful introductory reading (this list is also on Talis):

Bergin, J. (ed.), The Seventeenth Century 1598-1715 (Oxford, 2000).
Cameron, E. (ed.). Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History (Oxford, 1999).
Collins, J.B. and Taylor, K.L. (eds), Early Modern Europe. Issues and Interpretations (Oxford, 2006).
Kamen, H., Early Modern European Society (London, 2000).
Koenigsberger, H.G. et al., Europe in the Sixteenth Century, 2nd edition (Harlow, 2000).
Kumin, B. (ed.), The European World 1500-1800 (London, 2009).
Merriman, J., A History of Modern Europe. Vol. I: From the Renaissance to the Reformation , 1598-1700 (Basingstoke, 2nd edition 2005).
Munck, T., Seventeenth-Century Europe: State, Conflict and the Social Order in Europe, 2nd edition (Basingstoke, 2005).
Pettegree, A., Europe in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 2002).
Wiesner-Hanks, M.E., Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 2013).

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Exam  Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Justin Colson, email:
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Mark Williams
Cardiff University
Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History
Available via Moodle
Of 202 hours, 79 (39.1%) hours available to students:
123 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


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