Global Early Modern Europe


Taught Fall 2015 in The History Department

with a Co-Listing in European Studies

The University of Texas at Austin

40-student enrollment

Course designed and taught by Dr. Julia M Gossard

Course Description:

Historians use the term “early modern” to describe the period in European history between the end of the Middle Ages in the fifteenth century and the Age of Revolutions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In many ways, the early modern period was a time of transition. States were in the process of solidifying their power; religious reformations were redefining beliefs, cultures, and practices among the people; the exploration of the globe was intensifying, resulting in the creation of empires; and the economy was undergoing a transition to capitalism.


At the same time that Europe was undergoing major social, political, and economic transitions, Europe was also expanding westward and eastward, exchanging with new cultures. This survey course will pay special attention to the expansion of Europe to the New World, the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, and Southeast Asia, exploring how Europe exchanged goods, people, ideologies, and culture with these societies.

Topics covered include: Renaissance(s); the Reformation(s); State-Building; the Scientific Revolution; Global Expansion and Exchange; Impact of Slavery, Smuggling, and Spices on Europe; the Enlightenment; French Revolution.


Learning Objectives:

By the end of the course, students will:

1) Have a solid grounding in the history of early modern global Europe (1400-1800), preparing them for upper-division courses.

2) Understand historical change along with historical continuity

3) Confidently cite and analyze (translated) primary source documents from early modern Europe

4) Identify “key” developments in global early modern European history including the Renaissance, the Reformation(s), the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution.


  • 10% Participation & Preparation
  • 20% Reflection Papers (4)- On select weeks, students will submit a short (min-one page, max-two pages, double-spaced) writing exercise that analyzes at least one of that week’s required primary source documents. You should not merely summarize what the author said, but include a thoughtful analysis of the text, relating it back to our secondary source readings and class discussions.   Though there are seven (7) opportunities to write these assignments, students are only required to complete four (4) of these assignments. Students may write one additional paper to replace their lowest single paper grade.
  • 25% Mapping Early Modern European Exchanges (Digital Assignment)
  • 20% Mid-Term Exam
  • 25% Final Exam


Mapping the Early Modern World: A Digital Assignment

  • Students will build their digital literacy through the creation of a collaborative map of the early modern world. Using Google Maps and Google Docs, students chart the transmission and exchange of goods, people, ideologies, and cultures across the globe from 1400 to 1800. Every student is responsible for at least four entries, each at around 200 words, throughout the semester. Much like identification terms on examinations, these entries explain the historical significance of the subject, the date(s), and connections to the historical narrative and other entries in the map. Students are encouraged to check each other’s work and make revisions as necessary. Entries are added to the map as well as to an Excel file in Google Docs. Students can use this Excel file as a study guide of sorts, helping them review important key terms and ideas. This exercise not only fosters digital literacy of mapping software, Microsoft Excel, and the Google Drive, it also teaches them about collaborative projects, organization, and verification of online text. Furthermore, for visual learners, this map serves as a visual representation of how interconnected Europe was with the rest of the world in the early modern era. At the end of the semester, students will reflect on the assignment in a two-page report (5%), demonstrating how this map acted as a supplemental learning tool.

The Map in Real Time:

List of Selected Readings:

  • Merry Weisner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789
  • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Peter Burke, “Did Europe Exist before 1700?” in History of European Ideas 1 (1980): 21-9.
  • Petrarch, Letter to the Abbot of St. Benigno
  • Selections of Alberti, On Painting
  • Luther’s 95 Theses
  • Selections from the Geneva Consistory
  • Philip Benedict, “The Wars of Religion, 1562-1698,” in Renaissance and Reformation France
  • Duc de Saint-Simon, The Court of Louis XIV
  • Commonwealth Instrument of Government, 1653
  • Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615 and Galileo’s Indictment and Abjuration of 1633
  • John Thornton, Chapter 2 in Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World
  • Jan de Vries, “Between purchasing power and the world of goods: understanding the household economy in early modern Europe” in Consumption and the World of Goods
  • Chapters 1 & 13 in Tulipmania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & The Extraordinary Passions it Aroused by Mike Dash
  • Image/Painting: Jan Brueghel the Younger, “Satire on Tulip Mania,” c. 1640
  • T.H. Breen, “The meaning of things: Interpreting the consumer economy in the eighteenth century”
  • Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1763
  • Kant, “What is Enlightenment?,” 1784
  • Adam Smith, excerpts from The Wealth of Nations, 1776
  • Abbé Sieyes “What is the Third Estate?”
  • Darnton, “The High Enlightenment and Low-Life on Literature”
  • Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789

Download Syllabus


2 thoughts on “Global Early Modern Europe

  1. Pingback: Mapping the Early Modern World: Using Google Maps in the Classroom - American Historical Association

  2. Pingback: Live Stream Through a Google Map - OSC IB Blogs

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