Skip Course Information

Course Information

Instructor Info:James Wald
Office Extension x5592
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 104
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 104

The era of the Renaissance and Reformation (c. 1350-1550) witnessed the rise of cities and commerce, the introduction of printing and firearms, the growth of the state, stunning innovation in the arts, scholarship, and sciences, bloody struggles over religion, and the European colonization of the globe. Crucial to many of these developments was the struggle to acquire and control knowledge, generally contained in texts--increasingly, printed ones. We will thus pay particular attention to the role of communication and the "history of the book" in shaping the origins of modernity. The course devotes equal attention to primary sources and secondary literature, introducing students both to the early modern era and to the discipline of history itself. A foundational course in history, social science, humanities, and cultural studies.

Course Objectives:


Course objective are to impart to participants, specifically:

• a basic knowledge of this formative era in the history of European (and world) civilization: What were its primary characteristics? How did it resemble or differ from other eras? What has it contributed to the shaping of the modern world?

• an understanding of the role of literacy and media of communication in history

more generally:

• confidence in working with both primary and secondary sources: evaluating the reliability and usefulness of a document
• skill in oral and written expression
• ability to construct an original critical argument based on both research and logic

Successful completion of this intensive seminar will should furnish students with core knowledge relevant to advanced work in literature, cultural studies, history, and the humanistic social sciences.

further details to follow as necessary 

Evaluation Criteria:

Students are required to attend class regularly, keep up with a demanding reading load, and complete all assignments (see syllabus and assignments pages for details) on time.

Principal assignments will include periodic brief reading responses and several essays based on the required readings.

Evaluations will be based on a combination of student commitment, objective accomplishment, and relative progress.

Additional Info:

The following required texts are available for purchase at Amherst Books:

8 Main Street  Amherst, MA 01002  ·  

413.256.1547  ·  800.503.5865  ·

and on reserve at the circulation desk in the Library.

All other required readings will be available online (some supplementary resources are also on reserve).

The books are listed in approximate order of use. Please note, however, that you should purchase them as soon as possible. The bookstore usually starts to return unsold books to the publishers around mid-term.

• KING, Margaret L. The Renaissance in Europe. (London: Laurence King, 2003).

[note: the McGraw Hill edition is identical in content and pagination, thus also acceptable]

• BARTLETT, Kenneth, ed. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Second ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011).

[note: you do need to use this edition, which is quite different from the 1992 first edition]

• GRAFTON, Anthony. New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery. (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992).

The Portable Machiavelli, ed. Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa. (NY: Penguin, 1979.

• RUMMEL, Erika, ed. The Case Against Johann Reuchlin: Religious and Social Controversy in Sixteenth-Century Germany. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).

• HILLERBRAND, Hans, ed. The Protestant Reformation. Revised ed. (NY: Harper Perennial, 2009).

[note: you do need the revised edition rather than the 1968 one]

• RUBLACK, Ulinka. Reformation Europe, New Approaches to European History, ed. William Beik and T. C. W. Blanning. (NY and Cambridge, UK: 2005).