HIS20950 European Statecraft, Strategy & Culture, c. 1470-c.1770: Personalities & Power

Academic Year 2023/2024

Europe or Western Christendom as it was more generally known underwent a major transformation following the fall of Constantinople – the capital of the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Christendom in 1453. It was a crucial time – a life or death moment for Europe. Faced with the real prospect of conquest by the overwhelming power of the Ottomans and their allies, European Society, riven by dissension and crippled by mediocrity faced an existential crisis. Yet against the odds, individual personalities at different times such as, for example, Isabel de Castilla, Pope Julius II, Armand Cardinal Richelieu of France, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Brandenburg, and Maria Theresa and Wenzel von Kaunitz of Austria emerged to give serious leadership in politics, culture, military strategy and diplomacy. The impact of the political and legal ideas of Machiavelli, Vittoria, Erasmus, Hotman de Villiers, Montesquieu, Lipsius and Spinoza for example, upon the exercise of power will be assessed. This module examines who the great personalities of the age were, and who and what formed their mindsets and inspired them to the significant achievements that reversed the rot, rescued their peoples and brought about the rise of the nation-states as great powers with political and cultural influence on the world stage from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the History of Early Modern Europe, especially concerning the tremendous political, cultural, social and economic changes that took place in the periods of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration and
Discovery, the Reformation and Counter Reformation, the Early Enlightenment in Europe.

Assess the fundamental importance of the force and influence of personalities on politics, culture and military and diplomatic strategies, and thereby gain greater insights into the qualities of leadership and the requisites for functional and vibrant societies.

Acquire a fully informed appreciation of European historical and cultural heritage and identity based upon empirical evidence, and to understand the relevance of this module for the times in which we live.

Present aspects of the historical debates concerning the political, cultural, religious, scientific and military changes, impacts and legacies that created the foundations of the modern age

Indicative Module Content:

Through studying the experiences of significant personalities and the examination of the interplay between conquest, integration, legitimization, identity-formation and coalescence in statecraft, state-formation and reformation in Early Modern Europe, this module examines that crucial period in world history in which the cultural, political, economic, social, intellectual, scientific and strategic foundations of our present world were established. It focuses upon the great events, personalities and movements of the period that shaped human development such as Renaissance Humanism, Religious, Cultural and Social Reformations, Exploration, Discovery, Scientific Development, Baroque Art & Neo-Classicism and the rise of Political Absolutism, Modern Military and Diplomatic Strategy and the emergence of the modern power-state, of the nation-state, of overseas dominions, and of supra- national institutions.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module combines large-group and small-group teaching, through a weekly lecture and seminar. Weekly lectures provide overviews of weekly topics, with focus upon key historical trends, debates and events. Weekly seminars focus on small-group active / task-based learning using both secondary and primary sources related to the weekly topic covered in the lecture. Autonomous learning is nurtured through required preparatory reading each week, a in-term written assignment and an end of semester exam. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
HIS30670 - Birth of the modern world

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Attendance: Active seminar participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 1,500 word essay (see Handbook), upon which the student will be asked questions. Week 6 n/a Graded No


Examination: End of Trimester Examination Paper (divided in two sections) will contain a selection of questions relating to each topic in the module. Students must answer one question from each section. 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the mid-term Essay Assignment is given in writing on the returned hard-copy. Feedback on the two-hour examination will be given by appointment in one-to-one meetings.

This Module's extensive bibliography and the recommended readings for each lecture and seminar will be provided in the Module Handbook, which will be available to registered students before term begins.
Name Role
Dr Conor Tobin Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 13:00 - 13:50
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 14:00 - 14:50
Seminar Offering 2 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Seminar Offering 3 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 16:00 - 16:50
Seminar Offering 4 Week(s) - 20 Thurs 14:00 - 14:50
Seminar Offering 4 Week(s) - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 14:00 - 14:50
Seminar Offering 6 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 17:00 - 17:50