History Thematic Course: The Enlightenment (V1345)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

The legacy of the Enlightenment is fiercely contested. Many view the Enlightenment as a source of modern ideas of equality, individual liberty, democracy, global cosmopolitanism and human rights. Others blame the Enlightenment for the evils of empire, racism, and even the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.

In this module we will examine why the Enlightenment's legacy continues to shape modern debates, but we will also seek to understand the Enlightenment period (between the late seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries) historically. The module is primarily concerned with the Enlightenment’s modes of thought – its ideas.

We will discover how people sought to formulate new theories of human nature and anthropology, how they grappled with the challenges of progress and decline, and how they understood the emerging world of luxury goods and commercial society. We shall also consider new languages of human freedom, autonomy, and individuality, the relationship between religious and secular life, the role of women (both as bearers of rights and as agents of civilization), and controversies about empire, race, and slavery.

These ideas, however, can only be understood in their social, political, and cultural contexts, and the module will therefore pay due attention to the actual locations in which the Enlightenment took place, both across Europe and in national and local environments, including coffee-houses, salons, royal courts, cities, and universities.


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay, Group presentation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: