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HIST4306SM Topic Studies in World History: West and the World III: Early Modernity

Semester 2 (2020-2021)

Lecture TimeWednesday 4:30-6:15PM


Lecturer Stuart MCMANUS ((852) 3943 7858 /

Teaching Assistant HUANG Xinyu (

Course Description

The early modern period (c. 1400-1800 CE) was highly formative for modern (i.e industrial and post-industrial) “Western” societies, featuring the beginnings of modern European politics, culture, religion, science, colonialism, etc.   This course will have two aims: to understand the continuities and innovations during the early modern period of “Western” history, and to understand its relationship to the rest of the world (Ming-Qing China, India, the Americas, Africa, etc.).  This course will also feature a visit to the CUHK Rare Book Collection to examine early modern printed books.


Week 1 (Jan 13): The Key Questions of the Course: Geography and Metageography

Readings: Lewis and Wigen. The Myth of Continents. A Critique of Metageography, Ch 2 on Blackboard.   


Week 2 (Jan 20): Kingdoms, Republics, Theocracies and Global Empires

Readings: Brandolini, Republics and Kingdoms Compared (I.35-44; III.26-30) (On Blackboard); Hernan Cortes, Second Letter (extracts); The Broken Spears.


Week 3 (Jan 27): The Renaissance in Europe

Readings: Petrarch, Letter to Cicero and part 2; Leonardo Bruni, Praise of the City of Florence; Letterlocking 1; Letterlocking 2.  

Week 4 (Feb 3): The Renaissance Beyond Europe

Readings: Francisco de Vitoria, On the American Indians, 231-232, 239-258, 264-266, 291-292 (available online through CUP website).  


Tutorial 1: Discussion of Wk 4 Vitoria reading.  


Week 5 (Feb 10): The Protestant Reformation & the Catholic Counterreformation (Macau)

Readings: Martin Luther, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation; XXV Decree of Council of Trent; The Inquisition in Peru; Machiavelli, The Prince (chh XV and XVII).  


(Feb 11-17) Chinese New Year Holiday!  



Week 7 (Feb 24): Manuscript and Print Culture

Readings: Gutenberg Bible – the Invention; National Archives – Paleography Tutorial, 1-3.  

Video lecture


Tutorial 2 [group presentations]: Ruins of St Paul’s exercise (article; image 1 and image 2 images to compare, one, two, three; use this terminology to describe it).  In advance, you will be placed in one of four groups.  Each group will prepare in advance a 15-minute presentation (in which all must speak at least momentarily) on the topic of the Ruins of St Paul’s and its significance in terms of (group 1) history of Christianity [Hsia, A Jesuit in the Forbidden City (ebook)], (group 2) history of architecture [Guillen-Nuñez et al. Macao’s College and Church of St Joseph: Splendour of the Baroque in China – architecture library], (group 3) western imperial history [Boxer, Fidalgos in the Far East – UL], and (group 4) Chinese history [Hao, Zhidong. Macau: History and Society – multiple copies].  You will need to divide the labor of research using the reading and the suggested books, composition, making PowerPoint, etc.  A small amount of additional research beyond the tutorial reading will be required, but not too much.  Each person in the group will receive the grade of the whole group.  


Week 8 (Mar 3): Early Modern Science

Readings: Galileo, Letter to the Duchess of Tuscany; Newton, Optics; Harvey, The Motion of the Heart; Teaching Science to the Manchu Emperor.


Week 9 (Mar 10): Europe and India

Readings: Vasco da Gama, Round Africa; Francis Xavier, Letter from India; Clive, Speech on India; Museum of Christian Art in Goa.  


Week 10 (Mar 17): Europe and China

Readings: Matteo Ricci and the Catholic Mission to China, 1583–1610 (docs 2, 6, 7, 10, 13, 21, 23, 25); Aleni, Sermon for the Feast Day for St Ignatius Loyola (pdf); Ricci and Maps.


Tutorial 3: Discussion of Wk 10 Ricci Reading.  


Week 11 (Mar 24): European Slavery in the Atlantic

Readings: Alonso de Sandoval, Treatise on Slavery (selections), Children of God’s Fire (selections)


Week 12 (Mar 31) No Class – Reading week


Week 13 (Apr 7): No Class – Reading week


Week 14 (Apr 14): Global Enlightenments

Readings: Kant, What is Enlightenment? Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands (“Reform in the Philippines”).  4pm Teaching Evaluation.  


Tutorial 4: [group discussion and debate] Here the key question is: “what changed with the Enlightenment?  Was it radically different from earlier periods of European thought?”.  You will read the following texts: Kant, What is Enlightenment?  Rousseau, Social Contract: Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 



Week 15 (Apr 21): Political Revolutions

Readings: United States Declaration of Independence; Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789; Constitution of Cadiz; Haitian Declaration of Independence.   


Assessment & Assignments

20% attendance and participation in lecture

Each student is required to attend the weekly lecture and the tutorials, as well as participate in class exercises, Ureply quizzes, etc. (5%).  Students must also ask at least two questions over the course of the semester (you must announce your name before you ask the question) (15%) with half the grade given for asking the questions (7.5%), then the other half given for the quality/relevance of the questions (7.5%).  From time to time, I will also cold-call students on students.


20% 4*1-page response papers (5% each)

For 4 of the 13 weeks of readings, please produce a 1-page argument-driven mini essay (c. 300 words), answering the question: “What is the most important take-away from the reading, and why?”  Send to TA by email before Friday 5pm after the related lecture. Veriguide Receipts must also be submitted but these can be sent at the end of the term.  


30% Participation in Tutorial

Active and enthusiastic participation in the tutorial on the basis of the reading (7.5% per tutorial).  


30% Final Project: Story Map or Renaissance Letter Exercise or Study of Rare Book


Create one digital map of a particular event, theme, or series of related events/developments.  This should be in the form of a Story Map of at least 10 pages using and include a map of the events, text narrating the events, any images (from Wikicommons or elsewhere), and relevant quotations from sources you have read for class.  Use Terrain background.  You can find an example of a Story Map here.  You must discuss your ideas with the professor or TA before Week 11.  

Due on Friday of Week 15 at 5pm via email to Professor.    


Write an imagined letter in English from one early modern figure to another, or from an early modern figure to an ancient one.  It should be written in your best approximation to one style of early modern handwriting and be sealed using early modern letterlocking technology.  You must discuss your ideas with the professor or TA before Week 11.  

Due on Friday of Week 15 at 5pm via letterbox to Professor.    


Write a 1500-word research paper on one of the rare books we look at during the workshop.  You will need to go to the Rare Books Room to study the book (arrange this with librarians), and probably do a small amount background research on the author, text, printing history of the work, etc.  The instructor can provide additional reading.  

Due on Friday of Week 15 at 5pm via email to Professor.    


All readings will be primary sources.  However, students looking for an introductory textbook may refer to the relevant chapters in Kishlansky, Geary and O’Brien, Civilization in the West (2006, 2008, etc.).  More detailed treatments are found in Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450–1789 (CUP, 2013), Matthew Restall and Kris Lane, Latin America in Colonial Times (CUP, 2011), Charles Ralph Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1969).  

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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