History Thematic Course: The Enlightenment

Module code: V1345
Level 6
30 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

Both the friends and the foes of 'modernity' tend to find most of its intellectual, cultural, political, and institutional origins in the Enlightenment. The aim of this module is to provide you with an appreciation of why the period from the late-17th to the end of the 18th century is considered to be of such importance for our self-understanding.

The module is primarily concerned with the Enlightenment's modes of thought:

  • how people struggled to formulate new ideas of the natural world and its exploration
  • of animals and their rights
  • of individuality and conscience
  • of the role of emotion in morals and art
  • of religious versus secular life
  • of privacy versus the public sphere
  • of the role of women
  • of individual rights and the common good
  • of 'society' as an object of science and control
  • of the contrast between European and non-European society
  • of race and racism.

However, such ideas can be understood only in their social, political, and cultural contexts, and the module will pay due attention to the actual function of Enlightenment, both as a pan-European phenomenon and in its national and more local environments.

The module gives you the opportunity for wide and varied reading that will include politics, philosophy, theology, aesthetics, science, arts, and samples of the banned and suppressed literature of the period.

Module learning outcomes

  • Evaluate a historical question thematically.
  • Compare and contrast a situation in different social and historical settings using a variety of source materials, and locate their analysis and conceptual awareness within an overall understanding of historical chronology.
  • Successfully produce a 4,000 word essay, which tests the above skills and requires more sustained analysis than in any previous exercise.