Faith, Power and Revolution: Europe and the Wider World, c.1500-c.1800

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul Keenan SAR.2.13


This course is available on the BA in History, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides an introduction to the international history of the early modern period by examining the complex political, religious, military and economic relationships between Europe and the wider world. The period between 1500 and 1800 enables the course to introduce students to a crucial period in international history. In political terms, it covers the rise of major dynastic states, with increasingly centralised institutions and concepts such as absolutism to promote the authority of the monarch, as well as the challenges to that authority and growing interest in political and social reform, culminating in the revolutions examined at the end of the course. Internationally, the period witnessed the gradual consolidation of leading European powers, as reflected in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), with formerly peripheral states emerging to challenge their position by the early eighteenth century. At the same time, the rise of major Islamic empires in Eurasia and the growing contact between Europe and the wider world provide students with important points of comparison between European and non-European states. The intellectual, religious and cultural developments of this period provide an important context for these major political events. The course will discuss the influence of key movements, such as the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, which re-ignited an interest in the Classical past and fostered a culture of rational enquiry into the natural world. Yet religion remained a vital component in the world-view of contemporaries, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. This world-view was subject to challenges throughout the period, as during the Reformation, and often sought to impose its own orthodoxy, whether through religiously-motivated conflicts or the persecution / conversion of certain groups. The course seeks to familiarise students with some of the most important issues and current debates on these aspects of this period. While its scope is necessarily broad in nature, the course will help students to deal with the dynamics of continuity and change over a long period of time.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of classes and 1 hour of workshops in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and the Lent terms and a revision lecture and class in the Summer Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the MT and 1 essay in the ST.

The third formative essay is a mock exam answer, which will be written by students as part of their revision during the Easter break, then graded by teachers and given written feedback in the first week of Summer Term.

Indicative reading

Beat Kümin (ed.), The Early Modern World, 2nd Edition (2014) D208 E81

Charles Parker, Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400–1800 (2010) HN13 P23

Euan Cameron (ed.), Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History (2001) D228 E11

Chris Cook and Philip Broadhead, The Routledge Companion to Early Modern Europe, 1453-1763 (2006) D208 C77

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000 (1989) D217 K31

Richard Bonney, The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660 (1991) D228 B71

William Doyle, The Old Order in Europe, 1660-1800 (1992) D273.A3 D75

Marshall Hodgson, Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam and World History (1993)  D21.3 H69

Stephen F. Dale, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals (2010)  DS292 D13

Jack Goldstone (ed.), Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (1991)  D210 G62

K. N. Chaduri, Asia before Europe: Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (1990)  DS339 C49


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Project (50%, 10000 words) in the LT.

Please note that this course has an assessed group project, which forms 50% of the final course grade. This project consists of a final piece of work, of no more than 10,000 words, which is written by all members of the group and submitted at the end of LT. The grade for this project is then shared by the group’s members.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2018/19: 41

Average class size 2018/19: 14

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills