History  417

Spring Semester 1996

The Making of Europe: Europe 1640-1790


Class meets Wednesday 1.25-4.25

Philip Jenkins                                                              407 Weaver Building   


Please note: I check my e-mail regularly (obsessively?) and this is an excellent way to get in touch with me if you have a quick question or if you want to make an appointment for a more substantial discussion.     


The Course

This course examines the history of European states and societies in what is sometimes called the “Age of Absolutism”, but is also known as the “Age of Reason”. This is the European world that was radically transformed by the great political revolutions which spread outwards from France after 1789. The course will synthesize political, social and economic affairs, and will consider the impact of cultural and literary developments. Though French events will obviously be a central concern of the course, it will also attempt to give coverage to the other major regions of Europe, including the Slavic and German lands

You will be relieved to know that NO knowledge of other languages is expected or required. Nor is any significant background expected, beyond the very general knowledge that might be derived from History 1 or 2.



Grading will be based on two main components, a research paper (50 percent) and a reaction to a contemporary work (30 percent). The remainder of the grade is based on class participation. Regular class attendance  is of course expected.

The research paper represents a major portion of the grade. You will see in the following syllabus that there are a number of specific deadlines associated with this, and be aware that I must approve the topic of your paper before you get going with it. I will be happy to assist with suggestions for bibliographies, and advice about the databases from which you can draw materials. As a general word of advice, please do NOT choose a topic relating directly to the French Revolution, as this is straying too far towards the margins of the period.


Let me explain the “reaction” paper, which is not a simple book report. Many works of fiction and literature were written during this period (see for example the list on Hampson, Enlightenment, 288-290). Most are still in print, and can be bought in cheap paperbacks: some, like Zadig, are both short and funny. Your task is to identify one of these books, and to write a paper of approximately ten pages, briefly summarizing the theme and plot, but the main goal is to explain how the book fits into the themes of the course. Briefly, what makes it a distinctive work of the era of Absolutism or the Enlightenment, the Age of Light or the Age of Reason. If relevant, explain why the work was so influential or important in its age. One point: I have to approve your choice of book before you commence writing on it. The book does not have to be fiction: it might be a work of travel, memoirs, science, or history, the only requirement being that it was first published in Europe in the period 1640-1789. Two restrictions: you can’t choose Candide for this particular project, and please don’t choose an American author.


You are absolutely not limited to the following list, but possible choices include:

Voltaire, Zadig

Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield

Montesquieu, Persian Letters

Rousseau, Confessions

Diderot, The Nun

Johnson, Rasselas

Beccaria, Of Crimes and Punishments

Goethe, Werther


At some point in the term, I will be asking you to give a short presentation on one or both of your papers (Don’t panic: I will give you a few days notice of this!)



All are in paperback and all are required


William  Doyle, The Old European Order Oxford University Press, second edition 1992, ISBN: 019-820387-X

Norman Hampson, The Enlightenment Viking Penguin, revised edition 1990, ISBN: 0-14-013745-9

Voltaire, Candide Penguin Classics, ISBN: 0-14-044004-6


A couple of notes about the textbooks. First, familiarize yourselves with all of them at the start of the class to see what sort of resources you have for papers or related research. ANY search for books or other sources should begin by checking out the fine bibliographies to Hampson and above all, to Doyle. Hampson has an excellent chart of the main figures and books we will be dealing with (see pp 287-290). Doyle has a list of major rulers and their dates on pp 401-403. Also, Europe in this period has a mind-bogglingly complicated political geography, so be aware that Doyle has a very useful series of maps on 394-400, to which you might often find yourself referring. I know I have to.


Syllabus of Classes


The course will be broadly divided as follows:


Classes  1-8                  c.1620-1740

Classes       9-15           1740-1790s


1. January 10

Introductory: The context of early modern society and politics 1640-1800. Crisis in Europe 1550-1640. The Thirty Years War

READ: Doyle, Old European Order chapters one-two, four


2. January 17

The new world of monarchy. From Richelieu to Louis XIV. Absolutism: social and  economic structures; the administrative system

Peasants and the countryside

READ: Doyle, Old European Order chapters five, six, ten


3.  January 24

The Religious Context; The Catholic Church; The churches as an arm of government; The religious heritage of the later seventeenth century

READ: Doyle, Old European Order chapter seven; Hampson, The Enlightenment, Introduction and chapter one


4 January 31


I need to know the theme of your reaction papers today


5.  February 7

Power Politics: Germany and the Habsburg lands

Peter the Great and the new Russia

READ: Doyle, Old European Order  chapter twelve


6. February 14

The meaning of dynastic politics - crises in Spain and the British Isles. The wars of Louis XIV

READ: Doyle, Old European Order chapter eight


7. February 21

The cultural heritage 1640-1740

Towards the Enlightenment: scepticism; scientific developments 1640-1740

Beginnings of the French Enlightenment

The impact  of  the Enlightenment. Montesquieu and Voltaire

READ: Hampson, The Enlightenment, chapters two-three; Doyle, Old European Order chapter nine

I need to know the theme of your research papers today



8. February 28

Europe and the wider world 1640-1740. Anglo-French rivalries and warfare; new colonial empires and ventures

READ: Doyle, Old European Order chapter three




9. March 13

Crime and justice under the ancien regime. The new criminology: Beccaria, Godwin, de Sade

READ: Hampson, The Enlightenment, chapters four-five; Doyle, Old European Order chapter eleven

I need the working bibliographies for your research papers today


10. March 20

Enlightenment political theory. From subjects to citizens; Rousseau; Discovering the People

READ: Hampson, The Enlightenment,  chapter six


11. March 27

Anti-clericalism and the decline of the Papacy; the collapse of the Jesuits;The rise of Biblical criticism; Freemasons, Deists and Illuminati

Read Candide


12. April 3

Science 1740-1800

Discussion of Candide


13. April 10

The enlightened despots and the dynastic network

The German states; The Empire and the creation of the Eastern Question

READ: Hampson, The Enlightenment, chapter seven; Doyle, Old European Order chapter thirteen

Rough drafts of your research papers are due today


14. April 17

Political crisis in France

The French Revolution - theories and debates

Extreme social and political radicalism.

READ: Doyle, Old European Order chapters fourteen-fifteen; Hampson, The Enlightenment,  chapter eight


15. April 24

 Napoleon. The crisis of the church

Industrialization and war 1789-1815. Europe and the wider world in the 1790s. The end of the ancien regime


Final versions of your research papers are due in final exam period.