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

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul Stock SAR 2.15


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. This course is available with permission 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.


Lectures will be online. The School aims to run in-person classes, subject to circumstances, with some online provision as and where necessary. There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and the Lent terms.

Formative coursework

One essay in the Michaelmas Term, two essays in the Lent Term. There may also be a mock exam.

Indicative reading

Beat Kümin (ed.), The Early Modern World, 3rd Edition (2018) 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

John F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World (2005) GF13 R51

Merry E. Weisner, Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World: Regulating Desire, Reforming Practice, 2nd edition (2010) BT708 W65

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


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2020/21: 36

Average class size 2020/21: 12

Capped 2020/21: Yes (38)

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