HS1117: Renaissance, Reformation and Revolution

School History
Department Code SHARE
Module Code HS1117
External Subject Code 100302
Number of Credits 20
Level L4
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Dr Mark Williams
Semester Double Semester
Academic Year 2018/9

Outline Description of Module

Spanning more than three-hundred years of history, this module will explore the impact of the Renaissance and the Reformation to challenge ideas of where, when, and how Europe (including Britain) and the world made the leap from ‘medieval’ to ‘modern’. Lectures and seminars will focus on a variety of themes including the structure of early modern society; the impact of the Reformation; Renaissance art and culture; the advent of print; the ‘military revolution’ of the seventeenth century; the advent of ‘scientific thought’; the ‘rediscovery’ of antiquity and global European expansion. Topics will consider the place of Britain within wider European and global contexts. Students will be provided with opportunities to engage directly with sources from the period, to debate different historical approaches to these subjects, and to construct their own ideas of this turbulent age.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge and an understanding of the main themes of the early modern period across a wide geographical range.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of a variety of historical approaches used to analyse early modern society and culture.
  • Demonstrate, as a necessary foundation for more detailed analysis in the second and final years of the degree, an understanding of key historical concepts. These will include notions of modernity, secularisation, religious and cultural change, and others.



How the module will be delivered

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures and seminar discussion of major issues.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will be encouraged throughout the duration of the module to communicate ideas and arguments in a variety of forms, including group work, classroom discussion, and tutorials. They will develop critical reading and writing skills as they engage with historical literature, placing this in a historiographical and methodological framework and coming to their own conclusion as to the validity of evidence and material on topics studied. They will, as a consequence, engage with theoretical arguments and apply this in their own work. During seminars students will be asked to analyse primary source materials, collaborate with their peers to present ideas and arguments, and engage in plenary class discussions.

How the module will be assessed

Students will be summatively assessed by one 2,000-word essay (excluding empirical appendices and references) [50%], and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%]. The formative and summative Essays are designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. The essays must be no longer than the set word count (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.


The opportunity for reassessment in this module

Individual cases will be determined by the Examination Board of the History Board of Studies.  Reassessment will normally take the form of a reassessment of the failed components (e.g. coursework, examination) in the August Resit Examination Period.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs)
Written Assessment 50 2,000 Word Essay N/A
Examination - Spring Semester 50 Exam - Renaissance, Reformation And Revolution 2

Syllabus content

Semester One


1) Early Modernity

            - Introduction

            - What is Early Modern?

2) Early Modern Society & Structure

            - Family, Gender, Social Order

            - Rule & Authority

            - Centre, Periphery, and Locality

3) Renaissance

            - What was the Renaissance?

            - Universities and Humanism

            - Geographies of the Renaissance: Urban Life and Culture

            - Print, Orality, and Communication

            - Discovery: Old Worlds, New Worlds


Semester Two


4) Reformations

            - Martin Luther and his World

            - Print, Protestantism, and Piety

            - Catholicism Goes Global 

            - Outsiders I: Judaism and Islam

            - Outsiders II: Witchcraft

5) Revolutions

            - The Scientific Revolution: Knowing and Unknowing the World

            - Resistance: Theory and Practice

            - Leviathan:  The Military Revolution and the Rise of the State

            - The World Turned Upside Down? The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1652


Concluding Lecture and Exam Review

Essential Reading and Resource List

Indicative Reading and Resource List:

Peter Burke, The Italian Renaissance: Culture and society in Italy, 3rd edn (Cambridge, 2014).

Barry Coward (ed.), A Companion to Stuart Britain (Oxford, 2003).

Susan Doran and Norman Jones, The Elizabethan World (London, 2011).

John Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven, 2006).

Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A new history of the Renaissance (London, 1996).

Lisa Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits: Building the scientific revolution (London, 1999).

Beat Kumin (ed.), The European world 1500-1800 an introduction to early modern history, 3rd edn. (Routledge, 2018).

Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance (London, 2016).

Andrew Pettegree, The Reformation world (London, 2000).

Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther: Renegade and prophet (London, 2016).

Ulinka Ruback, The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations (Oxford, 2016).

Hamisch Scott, The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History, 1350-1750 (Oxford, 2015).

Merry Wiesner, Early modern Europe 1450-1789 (Cambridge, 2006).


Copyright Cardiff University. Registered charity no. 1136855