The rich tapestry of life: a social and cultural history of Europe c.1500-1780 HI1007-05

This course provides students with a grounding in the key social and cultural processes which affected the lives of early modern Europeans.

This course encourages reflections on the major elements of continuity in this period and upon people’s response to change. It develops students’ analytical and conceptual skills and strengthens their ability to read documents attentively and critically. It also introduces them to new ways of studying social and cultural history.


30 Credits

Topics covered

The rural world, the urban world, the New World, poverty and poor-relief, the old demographic regime, medicine and health-care, gender, the family, childhood, status and protest, the Reformation and Counter-reformation, the reform of manners, minorities, literacy, the impact of print, the rise in consumption, the witch-craze.

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will:

  • Show an informed understanding of the major historical changes that had a major impact on the lives of early modern Europeans
  • Be able to identify continuities as well as transformations and appreciate the role of ordinary people in major transformations in this period
  • Be acquainted with the variety of sources available for the study of the social and cultural history of early modern Europe
  • Be familiar with the range of approaches which have been used in recent writings on the field
  • Show an increased ability to evaluate critically different interpretations and approaches
  • Show an increased ability to analyse historical documents


  • Exam (80%)
  • Essay (10%)
  • Reflective journal and forum posts (10%)

Essential reading

  • M. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe 1450-1789, CUP 2005
  • B.Kumin (ed.), The European World 1500-1800, Routledge, 2009
  • Edward Muir, Ritual in early modern Europe, CUP 1997