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Enlightenment: Britain And France In The Age Of Reason 1680-1760

This history course will explore key aspects of the intense political, cultural, religious, and intellectual changes that formed the backbone of the Enlightenment in Britain and France. When we think of the Enlightenment, it's very usual for the great French thinkers Voltaire and Rousseau to quickly come to mind, and we will study some of their important works. But the historian Roy Porter argued convincingly that the origins of the Enlightenment are to be found in the coffee houses of London during the second half of the 17th century, and so this is where our course will begin. We will address key questions including what exactly was the Enlightenment, and how was it understood by contemporaries? What are the different ways in which scholars have understood the Enlightenment since the 18th century? And who exactly was enlightened? How important were science, the arts, and the book trade to the process of enlightenment? Who was antagonistic towards the Enlightenment and why? How much of a threat was the new intellectual world to the governments of the day? We will utilise historical texts and images, including works by Swift, Defoe, and Hogarth, as well as reading a wide range of works by historians.
  • Who is it for?

    No prior knowledge is necessary but a good grasp of English is essential (you do not need to be able to read French). Students who wish to do some background reading before the course starts could consider:
    Roy Porter, Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (2000)
    Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment (4th ed, 2019, but all editions are good)
    David Bindman, Hogarth (1981)
    Daniel Roche, France in the Enlightenment (2000)
    William Doyle, ed, Short Oxford History of France: Old Regime France (2001)

  • What does it cover?

    This course is structured around eleven key case studies. These could include:

    ' Defining and interpreting the Enlightenment: different views since the 18th century
    ' The new economic base: trade, empire, slavery
    ' The significance of the new coffee houses in London, Paris, and Amsterdam, c.1650-1700
    ' Politeness and The Spectator
    ' Re-defining Christianity: science, nature, and deism
    ' Rejecting Christianity: the danger of atheism
    ' New senses of the self: homosexuality and molly houses
    ' Spreading ideas: the book trade, encyclopaedias, and the Republic of Letters
    ' Urban myths: the vanishing children of Paris and the French monarchy
    ' Moral panics: Hogarth's progresses
    ' Tolerance and human rights: the Calas Affair
    ' Ending Enlightenment: conspiracies and revolutions

    By the end of this course you should be able to

    ' Give an account of some of the key ways in which British and French culture changed during the 18th century
    ' Contribute to discussions of how we define the Enlightenment, who embraced it and who was hostile, and why
    ' Discuss the main ways in which visual culture can be used to study the Enlightenment

  • What will it be like?

    This is an interactive course. Each week we will have essential reading to read before meeting. This will usually comprise an article or chapter from a book, and a text or image from the period being studied. The tutor will set questions for you to think about whilst you are reading. We will then meet to talk about the reading and the set questions, and to decide what they tell us about the subject we are studying that week. Different points of view will be examined, with students encouraged to make up their own minds as to which they find the most convincing. Each student's progress will be assessed by their contributions to seminars, and by any one-to-one conversations with the tutor. This is not a stressful process.

  • What else do I need to buy or do?

    You do not need to buy anything to study this course. You are expected to read and to prepare for seminars in your own time. Internet access will greatly help.

  • What could it lead to?

    You could enrol on other courses at the Mary Ward Centre, to study history, history of art, philosophy or the history of ideas.

Available Courses

Enlightenment: Britain And France In The Age Of Reason 1680-1760

This history course will explore key aspects of the intense political, cultural, religious, and intellectual changes that formed the backbone of the Enlightenment in Britain and France. When we think of the Enlightenment, it's very usual for the great French thinkers Voltaire and Rousseau to quickly come to mind, and we will study some of their important works. But the historian Roy Porter argued convincingly that the origins of the Enlightenment are to be found in the coffee houses of London during the second half of the 17th century, and so this is where our course will begin. We will address key questions including what exactly was the Enlightenment, and how was it understood by contemporaries? What are the different ways in which scholars have understood the Enlightenment since the 18th century? And who exactly was enlightened? How important were science, the arts, and the book trade to the process of enlightenment? Who was antagonistic towards the Enlightenment and why? How much of a threat was the new intellectual world to the governments of the day? We will utilise historical texts and images, including works by Swift, Defoe, and Hogarth, as well as reading a wide range of works by historians.

25 April 2024 – 11 July 2024
Thursday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:459
£132 / £46
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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World Civilisations: City And State In Ancient Persia

The course will begin with a consideration of the definitions of 'civilisation,' and will then explore the origins of the city, the state, and of writing, in Persia (Iran) between c 3500 BC, and the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, in 331 BC. Themes to be considered will include the changing nature of city life, and of the state; the roles of religion, trade, warfare, and the emergence of literacy. Much of the course will be based on archaeological evidence, but we will also be looking at translated inscriptions, and bureaucratic texts. We will move on to look at the interactions between the Persian Empire and the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.

22 April 2024 – 15 July 2024
Monday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:455
£133 / £47
11 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Aspects Of The Later 20th Century World

The course will explore the cultural history of Europe and the Mediterranean world from 1960 to 2000, including feminism and the sexual revolution; the birth of Israel; the break-up of the Soviet Union; the realignment of eastern Europe; and the idea of European Union. Drawing on archaeological evidence, literary texts, architecture and the visual arts, the course will look at the complex and shifting relationships between the present and the past in the definition and transformation of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures and identities.

24 April 2024 – 10 July 2024
Wednesday, 10:30 to 13:00
Course Code:452CS
£201 / £70
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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World Civilisations City And State In Ancient Egypt

The course will begin with a consideration of the definitions of 'civilisation,' and will then explore the origins of the city, the state, and of writing, in Egypt between c 3100 BC, and the conquest of the region by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in 525 BC. Themes to be considered will include the changing nature of city life, and of the state; the roles of religion, trade, and warfare; and the emergence of literacy. Much of the course will be based on archaeological evidence, but we will also be looking at translated texts, including poems, short stories, medical treatises, religious and funerary texts.

25 September 2023 – 11 December 2023
Monday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:453
£145 / £51
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
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Meet The Tutor

Course Detail

Dr Stephen Brogan FRHistS undertook all his higher education at Birkbeck, University of London, as a mature student.  He is a cultural historian of early modern England whose research interests include the Stuart monarchy, history from below, and printed images.  His book The Royal Touch in Early Modern England: Politics, Medicine and Sin was published in 2015 and went into paperback in 2019.  Stephen's classes are very interactive: he sets a broad range of readings and encourages students to make up their own minds as to where they stand in debates.  

For more information contact The Departmental Administrator at admin@marywardcentre.ac.uk

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