21H.141 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Renaissance To Revolution: Europe, 1300-1800


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

This subject provides a selective introduction to major political, social, cultural and economic changes in Europe from the beginnings of the Renaissance in Italy around 1300 to the outbreak of the French Revolution at the end of the 1700s. Throughout we will focus on the porous boundaries between the categories of theology, magic and science, as well as the impact of various technologies of print. In this iteration of the class, we will pay special attention to these questions in seventeenth-century England, where the strains of civil war and religious disputation made issues of theology, science, magic, and censorship central to basic political and philosophical debates.

Course Requirements

Active class participation is central to our work together. Attendance is mandatory, and students are expected to arrive in lecture and recitation on time and prepared to discuss common readings. Students will write two 1250 word papers, due during Session 5 and Session 24. A mandatory 1250 word rewrite of the first paper will be due during Session 9. Students will write one 2500 word paper, due during Session 18. Finally, each student will participate in an in-class debate, during either Session 19 or Session 20. There will be no midterm and no final.

Grading Policy

Class Participation 25 points
Debate 25 points
Two 1250 Word Papers 60 points (30 points each)
Rewrite of First 1250 Word Paper 30 points
One 2500 Word Paper 60 points
Total 200 points

Each assignment will be weighted as shown in the table above in the calculation of the final grade, although these calculations will also take into account improved performance during the course of the semester.

For further detail, please see the Assignments section.

Required Reading

All readings are listed in the table in the Readings section.

If you want more background reading on this period in European history, consult:

Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, et al. The Making of the West: Peoples and Culture–A Concise History, Vol. I: To 1740. 3rd ed. Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2010. ISBN: 9780312554590.

Ginzburg, Carlo. The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller. Translated by John and Anne Tedeschi. John Hopkins University Press, 1992. ISBN: 9780801843877. [Preview with Google Books]

Descartes, René. Discourse on Method. 3rd ed. Hackett Publishing Company, Incorporation, 1998. ISBN: 9780872204225. [Preview with Google Books]

Writing Help

The Writing and Communication Center at MIT offers free one-on-one professional advice from lecturers (who all have advanced degrees and who are all are published writers) about all types of academic, creative, and professional writing and about all aspects of oral presentations (including practicing your presentations). We help you think your way more deeply into your topic, no matter what department or discipline you are in.

Cheating and Plagiarism

The web now hosts many sites which offer college level papers of varying quality on a variety of topics. I am well acquainted with these sites, and with others that offer detection services to professors. Buying a paper written by someone else and submitting it as your own work is cheating. Copying sections from someone else’s print or online work into your own without an acknowledgement is plagiarism. MIT has strict policies against both activities that I will fully enforce. For the appropriate MIT definitions and policies, visit Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students. If you are uncertain about what constitutes cheating or plagiarism, please contact me before submitting the work in question.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Activity Assignments