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Module HI0610 - Divine Right and liberty: English political culture in the 17th century
SYNOPSIS OF MODULE
An examination of the allegedly ‘revolutionary’ shifts in English political culture between about 1603 and 1690. The aim is to provide a forum where students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds can engage in the advanced study of a major topic in cultural and intellectual history.
Especial points of reference are the early Stuart monarchy and expressions of its political authority, the ferment of radical ideas in the Civil war period and the new ideology of the Restoration Settlement.
Seminars focus on the study of primary source materials. Some of the most important contributors to the history of English political theory are included, but discussion ranges well beyond these canonical texts. Literary and visual materials figure prominently, along with examples of 17th century pamphlets, biographies, constitutional documents, memoirs and devotional writings. The extensive secondary and theoretical literature allows these texts to be appreciated in broader conceptual, cultural, social and economic contexts.
Assessment is by means of one 2,500 word essay (50%) and one 2,500 word primary source exercise (50%).
INDICATIVE READING LIST
There are numerous anthologies of primary sources. Amongst the best are:
Erskine-Hill H & Storey G (eds) Revolutionary Prose of the English Civil War, (Anthology), Cambridge University Press, 1983
Wooton D (ed) Divine Rights and Democracy, (Anthology), Penguin, 1986
Other primary sources available in numerous modern editions include:
Aubrey J Brief Lives, c 1660-97
Bunyan J Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 1666
Cavendish M A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding and Life, c 1668
Clarkson L The Lost Sheep Found, 1660
Hobbes T Leviathan, 1651
Locke J Second Treatise of Civil Government, 1690
Milton J Comus, 1634
Winstanly G The Law of Freedom in a Platform, 1651
In the wealth of secondary material, the following are a few of the important and/or general works:
Hill C The World Turned Upside Down, Penguin, 1972 (see also other Hill titles)
Hutton R The Restoration: A Political and Religious History of England and Wales, Oxford Clarendon, 1985
Parry G The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1603-1700, Longman, 1989
Mendelson S The Mental World of Stuart Women, Harvester, 1987
Sharpe K Criticism and Compliment, The Politics of Literature in the England of Charles I, Cambridge, 1987
Tuck R Hobbes, Oxford Past Masters, 1989
Tully J An Approach to Political Philosophy, Cambridge, 1993
Underdown D A Freeborn People: Politics and the Nation in Seventeenth Century England, Oxford, 1996
The precise content of the module may vary from year to year, with routine updating and adjustment of teaching materials. The following is an indication of the sorts of topics likely to be covered.
1. The Concept of ‘Revolution’
Block One: The Authority of the Crown 1603-42
2. James VI & I: Kings, Gods and Fathers
3 The Culture of the Caroline Court
4 The Crown, The Church and the Professions before the Civil War
Block Two: The Radical Challenge 1642-60
5. The Putney Debates and The Levellers
6 Ranters and Quakers
7 Hobbes’s Authoritarian Radicalism
Block Three: Property and Self-Interest in Restoration England 1660-1690
8. Liberty and Licence in Restoration England
9. The Politics of Domestic Life
10. The Learned Ladies
11. Toleration and Dissent
12. Retrospective Overview
AIMS OF MODULE
1. To provide a framework for the in-depth, advanced study of the political culture of 17th century England.
2. To promote the study of the history of ideas through primary source work, encouraging students to make their own informed judgements on the basis of the available evidence.
3. To engage with on-going scholarly debates about the transformation of political culture in 17th century England.
4. To address conceptual and theoretical issues in the historiography of 17th century ideas.
1. A specialist knowledge of 17th century key thinkers and texts debating the relationship between the individual and authority in England.
2. An understanding of shifts in political culture through consideration of historical documents and/or literary and visual materials.
3. An ability to conceptualise within the parameters of a broadly comparative and thematic specialised study.
4. The ability to relate primary sources to broader cultural, social and economic contexts.
5. Enhanced analytical and interpretative skills in presenting an argued case in written form.
DISTANCE LEARNING DELIVERY
LEARNING AND TEACHING STRATEGY
Teaching centres on seminar discussions of primary source materials. The aim is to encourage students to engage with the raw materials of historical scholarship for themselves and to develop their own critical voices as practitioners of the discipline. Texts relating to each week’s theme are circulated in advance. Students are expected to study them carefully, so as to be able to make a positive and well informed contribution to the class. Because the primary sources need to be located in a variety of social, political and intellectual contexts before their fuller significance becomes apparent, a lecture strand has (exceptionally at level 6) been retained for this option. Lectures precede the related seminars and suggest perspectives and approaches enabling students to get more from their preparatory reading of the primary texts. Student presentations (formatively assessed) will also be used as a learning device, building upon similar work at earlier levels and helping students develop confidence as independent learners.
The module is summatively assessed by 2 equally weighted assignments each notionally of 2,500 words. The first assignment is an essay on one of a set of questions published in the module guide. The second assignment consists of contextual commentaries on two extracts from the primary source materials discussed in seminars. Sample texts are again published in the module guide. However, students may select appropriate extracts of their own, subject to staff approval. This form of assessment is consistent with other level 6, semester one, History options and with the emphasis laid upon essay and technique and primary source work in the academic study of History in the UK.
The essay tests students' ability to research a question and to marshal the material they have collected, into a reasoned response to a specific issue or problem. As a learning exercise, it tests not only their knowledge and understanding of a topic in seventeenth century English political culture; it also provides them with an opportunity to develop and display their intellectual, practical and transferable skills. Feedback on the essay will focus on these skills as well as on the historical knowledge and command of the primary source materials exhibited in the assignment.
Primary source skills are a vital part of the practising historian’s skill-set. Whilst the expectation that essay work will engage with primary sources is explicitly stated, the focus on these materials is much sharper in the second assignment. This exercise tests students’ independent powers of analysis and interpretation. It also requires them to construct historical contexts which will shed new light upon the texts under consideration. Feedback on the primary source studies should also help them in their preparation for their (primary-source based) dissertations.
Formative assignments in-class also help to ensure students' engagement with the whole syllabus (rather than just the topics they have chosen for their coursework). As indicated in the teaching and learning strategy, an important element here is student presentations, building upon the experience gained at level 4, or 5. Presentational skills are highly valued by employers and this low-stakes, formative approach is judged to be a good way of allowing students to develop such skills (particularly given the problems attached to summative assessment of group work). All students are required to give a presentation either individually, or as part of a group. All presentations are peer reviewed in the first instance, using anonymous questionnaires; this is followed up by spoken feedback from staff.
Normally the formative presentations focus on primary source materials. These sessions allow for experimentation with the same kinds of skills that are required for the primary source summative assignment. Feedback on presentations and peer review of them, should promote skills development and learning for the whole student group.
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