European and World History

European and World History is divided into fourteen periods, which cover the whole of European history and its engagement with the non-European world from the fall of Rome until 1973, with additional papers in American and global history. You can study times and places not covered in the Preliminary year, and periods are studied in greater depth, requiring you to examine the distinctive features of individual societies as well as to grasp broad themes. There are in addition four Theme papers. Theme papers pursue the development of a theme across chronological boundaries.

Where European and World History in Prelims was designed to be studied in thematic and broadly comparative topics, the Schools papers encourage you to develop a comparative understanding on more specific foundations. In most papers the subjects of tutorial essays are likely to be a mixture of territorially and politically specific topics and broader connecting themes. As in your British Isles History papers you should take the initiative in devising your tutorial programme so that it makes the most of both your own and your tutor’s interests.

In 248 Rome celebrated its millennium, and the commemorations included, we are told, the slaughter of (among others) thirty-two elephants, ten tigers, thirty leopards, ten hyenas, six hippopotami and one rhinoceros. Two years later, another emperor eager to promote empire-wide endorsement of his regime required all citizens to participate in a traditional sacrifice; Christians refusing to commit what seemed to them apostasy risked being consigned in turn to the arena, as further fuel to the entertainment machine.

The study of this period begins with an assessment of the Roman empire, both as the most enduring imperial project that Europe has yet seen, and as a cultural phenomenon which combines many features immediately recognizable today, from the law of tort to the shape and scale of entertainment venues, with such alien aspects as the elaborately stage-managed spectacles of death that these venues hosted. Understanding this world in turn requires critical examination of the source material on which reconstructions of this empire are based, and which proves much less solid than the concrete structures that have survived until today. The scrupulous itemization of the Colosseum’s millennial menagerie, for example, is taken from a whimsical biographical miscellany that contains much deliberate nonsense; the most vivid account of a Christian martyrdom from 250, the Passion of Pionius, is an unsettling combination of documentary-style detail and surreal flights.

From the starting-point of 250, we must ask questions about the vitality and indeed viability of the empire itself. The third century saw remarkable developments in the integration of the Roman world (all free subjects of the empire became Roman citizens in 212), and archaeology suggests that most inhabitants of the many cities of Europe and North Africa enjoyed a far higher standard of living than their descendants would do at the end of our period; but the empire was also far more exposed than it had been a century before to marauders from outside, and its rulers were far more vulnerable to opportunistic rivals or resentful subordinates. There would be some remarkable vicissitudes in the two centuries before the end of the western empire; by 650 the most significant figure in the city of Rome was its Christian bishop Martin, engaged upon a determined but doomed stand against the theological policies of his secular masters in the New Rome of Constantinople.

At the start of our period, Roman decision-makers were keenly aware of a new geopolitical presence, the Sasanian regime in Iran. The animals used to entertain the millennium crowds had been collected (allegedly) to grace the triumph of the previous emperor Gordian III over this new threat; the campaign proved instead the first of many Roman failures on the Euphrates, Gordian the first high-profile casualty.

Sasanian power was eclipsed at the very end of our period, and the last Shah, Yazdegerd III, was assassinated in Central Asia in late 651. The empire, along with much of the Roman East, was overwhelmed by the new force of Islam, emerging from Arabia. By the end of our period the Islamic Caliph Uthman’s forces were operating in Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and had entered diplomatic relations with the Tang regime in China.

The period involves the study of the whole Eurasian landmass and of the interactions between its disparate parts. Steppe nomads made their presence felt from China to the Rhine; the end of the period saw the emergence of the Khazar Khaganate, extending from the Caspian Sea to the Volga and Dnieper rivers; the ruling elite would allegedly convert to Judaism, after representations from the Christian and Islamic empires.

Students exploring this period will be introduced to some remarkable figures, from rulers such as Diocletian, Constantine, Julian, Attila, Theoderic, Clovis Justinian, Khosrow, Gaozu and Muhammad, to religious figures such as Eusebius, Kumārajīva, Augustine, Symeon the Stylite, Gregory of Tours, Gregory the Great, Xuanzang and (again) Muhammad; they will also explore a spectacular range of sources, from the Histories of Ammianus Marcellinus to the Secret History of Procopius and Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, and from Eusebius’ History of the Church through Augustine’s Confessions to the Quran.

There are three stories, at least, about this period. The most traditional of these is that we are here in ‘the Dark Ages’, an era of carnage and decay following the collapse of ancient empires. Both Rome and Persia had fallen: the conflict between them had been implacable, but on this traditional reading, it was to be centuries before there were comparable structures to stand in their stead. In the Latin West, only at the turn of the first millennium did the pulse of indigenous urban civilization quicken into life. A revisionist account resists this doom and gloom and might in fact call this period an Age of Empire, iridescent with the rise and rise again of grand political ventures: in China, the Tang Empire, or in western Europe, the Carolingian Empire. These regimes were all the more impressive precisely because they lacked the level of infrastructure of ancient imperial projects. In accounting for their success, however, we move out into a broader perspective. A third view of the period might see here ‘a time to sew together’ (Ecclesiastes 3: 7), an epoch for the forging of new ties, some casual and experimental, some of great and lasting intensity. Thus we witness the triumph of universal religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism), the differentiation of bonds of blood and of ties of affect, the thickening of global networks of exchange, the development of new forms of information technology (the book, paper, joined up handwriting) and the honing of mechanisms of extraction from the peasantry. The making of societies, not of empires, is perhaps the most compelling story to tell here.

An attractive feature of late ancient and early medieval history is that because the sources are so relatively few, it is possible for students to get direct access to Christian chroniclers, writers of saints’ lives, treatises from Muslim anthropologists, Buddhist missionaries and pilgrims. They will be introduced to works of art of enduring beauty and no less palpable strangeness. The world of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages is an electric field of current research and debate. This paper aims to show why.

The bibliography for this course is divided into four sections: I. Orientation II. Key Themes III. Geo-political frameworks IV. The Tenth-Century Condition. This is a long list, but is no more than a series of starting points. Lecture provision will be driven largely by the key themes.

This paper enables you to examine the centuries between 900 and 1300 C.E. from either a European perspective or by focusing on societies outside Europe. In practice many students and tutors will seek to combine both European and World approaches. Whatever the approach taken, you will be able to engage with a wide range of different cultures over a period of fundamental change and to examine apparently familiar themes (gender, class, economic change, and identity) in unfamiliar chronological and geographical settings. You will also discover ways of thinking and acting which are strikingly distinct from those encountered in other periods.

Whether seen from a European or global perspective, the centuries 900-1300 were characterised by profound changes and complex processes. Relations within and between social groups, genders and families were restructured. There were striking shifts in religious practices and beliefs. The ‘world’ religions of later centuries expanded rapidly with the spread of Christianity into Scandinavia and central-eastern Europe, the conversion of parts of India, the Central Asian steppes, and East Africa to Islam, and the greater reach of Buddhism into the devotional lives of individuals and communities across East and South Asia. In some regions expression of religious devotion took the form of holy war (jihad and crusade), but not all warfare was holy, and not all religion was martial. Pilgrimage boomed everywhere. Forms of monasticism and ascetic practices diversified. This was a period when heresy and other forms of dissent erupted (or were perceived by those in authority to have erupted). New polities and forms of association proliferated, not just empires and kingdoms, but also city states, confederations of all sorts, intellectual and religious networks, and universities. The economy expanded across the whole of Eurasia and beyond. The ideas and ideals that shaped social, political and religious life were reassessed and reshaped. This was a period of the evolution of written vernacular languages; new artistic and architectural forms of expression; and well-documented elaborate ceremonial cultures. With sources as diverse as Icelandic sagas, Byzantine saints’ lives and Japanese memoirs to draw upon, the roles, representations and inner lives of women can be integral to the study of all topics in this paper.

There are important debates to consider: was this a period of new and conflicting identities; or of the creative interaction of cultures which had previously been distant and distinct? Or was it both? Were the frontiers between peoples, groups and cultures porous or increasingly hard and fast? How much change was genuinely new, and how much evolved from or coexisted with longstanding continuities? For instance, what was the relationship between long-standing empires in the Islamic, western European, Byzantine and Chinese worlds and new political structures? How was it possible for longstanding ideals of monastic life in Europe to take so many news forms after 1000? Did the peasant experience worsen or improve as slavery disappeared, or was slavery still ubiquitous after 1000, but in new forms and with a stronger focus on female rather than male enslavement?

Some quite exceptional forms of evidence enrich the study of this period in all world regions. Many sources, especially narratives, are available in translation. Most were writtenby elite men, but increasingly we have access to writing about and by women, and also to records (written and material) which speak more directly to the experience of those beyond the political and religious elite. Direct engagement with medieval voices does not only enhance our picture of these centuries but allows undergraduates to subject the certainties of the secondary literature to close critical scrutiny.

The examination for this paper will include a mixture of questions specific to particular regions of the medieval world, but also many questions which can be answered with reference to any world region.

Every clime has peculiarities familiar to its inhabitants, but a person who has never left their hearth and has confined their researches to the narrow field of the history of their own country cannot be compared to the courageous traveller who has worn out their life in journeys of exploration to distant parts and each day has faced danger in order to persevere in excavating the mines of learning and in snatching precious fragments of the past from oblivion.

Mas’ūdī, The Meadows of Gold, C.E.943-56

The ‘global middle ages’ is a relatively new idea in both medieval and global history. ‘Globalization’ is often envisaged as the process of planetary connection that began, or accelerated, after 1492 and intensified into our contemporary modernity. The view that we live in a ‘globalised’ world is fundamental to our identity as ‘modern’, which creates the expectation that the medieval period was not ‘global’ and that the ‘global’ is something that emerged later. The concept of a ‘global middle ages’ runs against these two ways of approaching global history. Rather than seeing the period 500-1500 as a precursor, as a time of ‘archaic’ or ‘proto’ versions of modern capital-based globalization, this paper explores the ways in which humans and human societies during these centuries were ‘global’, interconnected, mobile and dynamic on their own terms and in their own activities, practices, ambitions, ideas and imaginations. Rather than beginning with states and empires as units of analysis, this paper asks you to start by thinking in planetary terms: of the vast and diverse spaces within which humans made their habitations; of terrain, environment, complex ecosystems and biodiversity; of the seasons, moon, stars and planets which were fundamental for time-keeping, navigation and cosmologies. How did people live in this world? How did they organise food, shelter, sex, reproduction, child-rearing, marriage, communities, labour, manufacturing of goods, trade, transport, communication, cities, governance, finance, hierarchy, loyalties, courtesies, knowledge, belief, health, war, death? What were the consequences of their choices for the shapes of their societies, for the many ways in which groups, communities and societies affected each other, for the lives of individuals, and for the natural world around them?

The paper draws on material from a millennium of human history, and allows you to explore and compare case studies from many parts of the planet, as well as examining formative connections between different regions and types of society. A fascinating wealth of material survives from across the period. Texts written by men and women document extensive travels and encounters; the mundane, comic and tragic in daily life; the intricacies and complexities of court culture; the administration of empires and kingdoms; diverse practices of faith and belief; strange tales, heroic sagas and ancient myths; stories of love, sex and family; scholarly treatises on philosophy, science, technologies, geography, history, theology, magic and the occult; accounts of suffering, disease and disaster; of collapsing empires and terrible armies on the move. These can be read for glimpses of personality,period and place, but in a global history paper, one might also ask about when, how, why and for whom such materials were made in different parts of the world, and what common patterns might be detected in the making and keeping of records, both as technology and practice. At the other end of the scale, a burgeoning field of research examines medieval societies through the lens of climate and environmental sciences, setting the historical record against the findings of surveys of shifting planetary conditions, regional changes, and the effects on the local environment of particular cities and ways of living. How far can the patterns of change for societies in our period be explained by the shift from the benign climate of the classical period to the colder, wetter climate of the early middle ages – precipitating the failure of imperial governance in China, the Mediterranean and Americas – and the warmth and stability of the later medieval period, declining abruptly into erratic and chilly climate patterns in the fourteenth century? When and how were states and societies resilient, and in what ways? Some historians have come to ask whether periods in which states were weaker and therefore less able to tax and coerce labour were better for ordinary people. There is a renewed interest in patterns of nomadic and sedentary life and their role in the larger dynamics of regions. Thinking about the period on this scale unsettles many of our more conventional narratives and analytic priorities and opens up interesting new questions about those centuries and our more general historical understanding.

Much of the reading for this paper reflects the most recent developments in historical thinking, in which analytical frameworks associated with the nation-state are being superseded by a growing awareness of systems of power that work on a larger scale, and the need radically to revise older narratives that celebrate ‘progress’ and ‘growth’ in order to equip ourselves to respond the new realities and uncertain future of human life on earth. The medieval period might seem irrelevant in this context, but the longer view that is offered by its study is extremely illuminating, since so many of our ways of thought and behaviour, techniques of governance, ideas of civilisation and barbarism, attitudes to the natural environment and the place of humans within larger ecosystems were thoroughly established long before the more conventional starting dates for the ‘global’.

In all areas of human life, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries CE saw momentous change and fascinating developments across many regions. Students may approach this paper as a series of connected case studies with a principally European focus (potentially including Russia, Byzantium, and the Mediterranean), or they may examine the same range of topics across a broader geographical area, taking in China, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Bespoke tutorial topics on other regions may be arranged with some tutors, and would be compatible with the general themes of the paper.

In the mid-fourteenth century significant alterations in climate unleashed epidemic disease on an unprecedented scale across much of Eurasia. Plague contributed to social, economic and cultural changes, though the nature and extent of these differed from region to region, giving students the chance to draw links and make comparisons on a number of scales. The lives of the individuals affected by these developments were further shaped by gender, (dis)ability, wealth, and cultural values. It was within this framework that regional political histories unfolded. Students may study the fate of dynastic states and empires that were also drivers of trade and cultural change, such as Yuan China, Il-Khanid Persia, the nomadic Golden Horde, the Jagiellonian lands across central Europe, the old monarchies of western Europe such as France, Aragon and Castile, the Mamluk slaves-turned-rulers in Egypt, the Delhi Sultanate, and the Venetian and Genoan maritime networks before they were eclipsed by the nascent world-empires of Portugal and a unified Spain. Emerging powers like Burgundy, Muscovy, and the Ottomans offer fascinating case studies of state-building, looking at warfare, legitimation, diplomacy, justice and fiscality. Other political forms, such as city states in Italy and urban leagues in German-speaking lands, competed with monarchies and empires, while much of the world experienced little that could be described as state power. The agency and experiences of peasants subject to taxation, of soldiers in war, of women under myriad forms of patriarchy, and of colonised peoples and slaves are further perspectives from which it is possible to examine political and social history. Popular rebellions from China to Europe offer absorbing ways to broaden the study of political agency, and the records of crime present an interesting perspective on social relations and state growth.

Students will be able to engage with rich collections of primary and secondary sources dealing with religious thought and expression within Latin and Orthodox Christianity, and Islam in its different forms, besides considering the experience of minority populations: Christians in Islamic lands, Muslims in Christian lands, Jews across the Eurasian polities. During this period both Christianity and Islam defined themselves against internal enemies (heretics), while battling pagans and each other. There was a flourishing of religious piety, encompassing poetry and mystical literature written by men and women. The scholarship on Christian, Muslim, and Chinese art and material culture, and the presence of accessible museum collections in Oxford and London, offer yet another way of engaging with this period. Major writers likewise present the opportunity for individual case studies, notably Ibn Khaldun (perhaps the greatest historian and social/political thinker of any age) and Christine de Pizan (sometimes described as the first feminist author), but also including the Tuscan ‘greats’ Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch, religious reformers such as Jan Hus and Martin Luther, political theorists like Machiavelli, and the famous travellers Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo.

The two hundred years of this period are amongst the most traumatic and destructive in European history. Yet paradoxically they were simultaneously a period of remarkable creativity, innovation and intellectual transformation. Martin Luther’s 1517 protest grew into a seismic challenge not just towards the Catholic Church, but to a whole series of political, social and cultural assumptions that had united the Christian West. Religious division and dynastic politics provided an explosive combination, setting in train struggles that climaxed in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, a struggle fought across much of central and Western Europe and bringing devastation, economic dislocation and mortality on a colossal scale. War was no less a fact of political life in Eastern and Northern Europe, where the respective political trajectories of Poland-Lithuania, Muscovy and Sweden were shaped by enduring conflict. The Ottoman Empire posed a territorial threat to Europe throughout this period, confronting Europeans embarked on global colonial enterprise with the possibility of being colonized themselves.

Within individual societies, the radicalism of the reformation engendered a formidable political, social and intellectual reaction, whose consequences were still to be felt at the end of the seventeenth century. A period of heightened religious intolerance was matched by the determination of authorities to impose social, sexual and intellectual conformity within their societies. Most notoriously this was seen in the evolution of theories of witchcraft as diabolical possession, which permitted spasms of witch-hunting and extreme persecution from the 1580s. Here and elsewhere, issues both of gender relations and the role of women in different early-modern societies have become key areas of research and debate. Growing out of this repressive atmosphere were the first elements of a transformation of knowledge through a burgeoning print and news-culture in which science and scientific observation, philosophical reasoning and scepticism, new economic and political thinking, could be disseminated and discussed.

All of these religious, ideological and political tensions unfolded in a dramatically changing economic environment. Accelerating population growth through the first part of the period, leading to increasing demand on the available land and on food production, followed by the global cooling of the ‘Little Ice Age’ and a vast increase in the scale and costs of warfare, had a calamitous impact on the majority of the population of Europe. Famine and disease caused regular and devastating ‘spikes’ of mortality through to the end of the seventeenth century. Yet economic misery was not the fate of all: the Dutch Republic emerged to enjoy a ‘Golden Age’ of prosperity and cultural flourishing. Elsewhere across Europe, existing and new elites benefitted from rising agricultural prices and falling wages to gain unprecedented prosperity, and become the driving force behind a transformation of the sophistication and extravagance of material culture, whether seen in increasingly opulent princely courts or the art and architecture of the baroque.

Students taking this tutorial-based course may choose topics over a broad chronological and geographical range, or may concentrate on a narrower range of territories, themes, or a more constrained time-period. Tutorials will provide the opportunity to employ detailed case-studies to think about major issues shaping states and societies in this period, and about historical approaches which have done much to challenge traditional interpretations of political, social and cultural history. Studies of the imposition of the Protestant and Catholic reformations, repression of crime and the treatment of minorities and those on the margins of society allow the student to make use of extensive recent work calling into question dichotomies such as ‘popular’ and ‘élite’, and exploring concepts such as acculturation and syncretism as alternatives to simplified models of ‘top-down’ imposition. Traditional assumptions that this was an era of ‘absolutism’ can lead to more critical consideration of the mechanisms of political power in the early modern state, the limitations upon central authority and the persistence of societies based upon localized power and privilege. Warfare can be studied both in its own right, and in relation to a number of key debates about its impact on states and societies. Artistic movements such as classicism and the baroque offer the possibility of developing recent ideas about the projection of ‘soft’ power, while hallowed concepts like the ‘scientific revolution’ are the subject of vigorous historiographical debate. The course can equally be directed towards economic history, making use of an extensive recent literature concerning developing patterns of trade, mercantile networks, and the rapid development of European colonisation.

This paper provides an introduction to some cutting edge developments in world history by focusing on the history of empires in the period before the West dominated the globe. Students therefore have the opportunity to explore pre-modern societies outside of the West on their own terms and in all their cultural diversity.

This was the period that saw the first real seaborne empires launched from Europe following Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India in 1498. The oceanic exploits of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and then British that followed, therefore form one focus of the course. However, the heart of the paper lies in Asia, with the great territorial empires that sprawled across the Eurasian landmass: the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, and the realms of China, Japan and Southeast Asia. (There is also an opportunity to study the New World and Atlantic Africa).

Students will reflect on the methods the ruling elites of these vast new states used for governing disparate regions, how their plans were made and undone by demographic and economic expansion or the implacable force of climate change, and what ideologies and forms of justification they devised. Did it follow, for example, that imperial centres would conceive of the peoples on their borders as barbarians, or even racially inferior? How could they harness or defuse the explosive potential of religious fervour or the movements of missionaries? What inspired the rebellions against them?

The other major thematic concern is the extent to which the whole world participated in an ‘early modern’ age: can we identify this period as the first genuine phase of globalization? Can we trace similar changes in administrative innovation, commercial growth, or even newly emancipated forms of intellectual life across such different societies? If we can identify some common developments, how then can we explain the fact that by the end of the period the great agrarian empires suddenly seemed vulnerable? If it is possible to consider the Portuguese as mere waterborne parasites in 1500, by 1800 the British were more like locusts devouring large chunks of India.

The question of a global ‘early modernity’ represents one of the most controversial areas of modern historiographical debate, with significant implications for the return of grand narrative and visions of the long term. The course also represents an introduction to doing comparative history in a systematic way, and should help students prepare for the Disciplines paper in finals. The other main method of world history is also introduced: with connected history, historians have become more imaginative in tracing the ways in which far-flung societies were interconnected in sometimes unexpected ways, through the circulation of millenarian ideas associated with kingship among a number of Islamic realms, or the political consequences of the dissemination of firearms. Understanding encounters across cultural divides is part of this: how should one interpret Jesuit reports from the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar, or Persian ambassadors writing about their encounter with Theravada Buddhism in the royal city of Ayudhya?

In the ‘long’ eighteenth century, Europe and the rest of the world were more tightly bound together than ever before. Slavery, global trade, scientific exploration, colonial expansion, and global warfare were all central features of the period. This first age of globalization was also expressed in the tendency of European thinkers to juxtapose their societies with overseas cultures, not always to the advantage of the former. In the final decades of the course, the French Revolution swept through Europe and the wider world, followed by slave revolts in the Caribbean and struggles for independence in Latin America.

In Europe itself, rapid growth of population and the economy gave birth to the most developed commercial civilization the world had ever known. Economic growth and commercialization, however, entailed increasing social dislocation and tensions within a society which associated rank with inherited and corporate privilege. Meanwhile the dominant form of Christianity was under attack from the new, more egalitarian and secular ideology of the Enlightenment. Across Europe the philosophes and their allies made human betterment in this world the focus of their writing. Since many rulers and their advisors after 1750 took up these new ideas, hoping that the abolition of the corporative society would increase the state’s ability to mobilize its subjects’ resources, the stage was set for a battle between many of Europe’s governments and the privileged orders. This tension culminated in the American War of Independence and the French Revolution of 1789, both global events with far-reaching consequences.

In such a period of conflict and change, there is no shortage of topics for you to study in tutorials. Central topics are the Enlightenment, the leading ‘Enlightened Absolutists’ (Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, Joseph II, Charles VIII of Naples and III of Spain), the failure of reform in France, or the outbreak and impact of the French Revolution, colonial expansion, and overseas trade. Further topics are changes in the Ottoman Empire, Japan, India, and China. There are, however, many other topics in economic, social, cultural and intellectual history which you can explore, among them popular culture, art, and changing attitudes to women and children.

How did thirteen loosely-bound colonies on the periphery of the North-Atlantic win their independence in 1776? Could a fragile republic maintain its independence in an age of revolutions and in the face of an ascendant British Empire? What was the cost of fighting, and ultimately surviving, a bloody Civil War? How were western territories incorporated into the nation’s dynamic east and west coast ports, and the international markets they serviced? How did the fledgling nation that emerged from a British civil war become one of the preeminent imperial powers in the Americas, Caribbean, and the Pacific? This paper interrogates these questions, and many more.

During this period, the polity that became the United States of America defined itself in a variety of ways. “White” settlement expanded across the continent the Mississippi River, to the Pacific Coast – and then into the Pacific itself. African American slavery, longestablished, was reinvigorated making the Cotton South one of the powerhouses of the global economy. Indigenous empires, which had long controlled the Continent, continued to confront Euro-American settlers. Mexicans, Tejanos, Cubans, Hawaiians, and Filipinos resisted the spread of the US Empire over their territories. Waves of mass migration arrived from Europe and Asia. These migrants dug for gold, laboured on farms and in factories, laid rails and erected telegraph lines – and convulsed the nation’s politics, as powerful nativist currents in US political life pushed back against them. And, throughout this period, the emerging nation defined itself through ideas – of republicanism, states’ rights, white supremacy, abolitionism, protestant revival, moral reform and populism.

Historians of the creation of the American republic and of the nineteenth-century United States have pioneered a variety of innovative new approaches to the US past. They have been especially interested in expanding the boundaries of United States’ history to examine how the powerful empires, transnational processes, and new technologies of transportation and communication (and the new patterns of racial hierarchy and exclusion that accompanied them) that shaped the modern world influenced US economic development and its nation- and empire-building projects. Central to this has been a reexamination of the place of American slavery at the forefront of global capitalism. Slavegrown cotton connected the United States to the commercial and financial emporium of the British Empire and to its emerging imperial markets in Asia and Africa. But, an exploitative system that promoted international integration proved fatal to the antebellum Union. Historians have also reversed the traditional east-west gaze of US historians to place Continental developments at the heart of US history. There was nothing inevitable about the United States’ westward expansion: it was contested by powerful indigenous empires whose presence shaped US imperial power at every turn and by the limits of US power itself. Finally, the long history of the United States’ empire project in the Caribbean, Americas, and Asia has transformed our understanding of the commercial, environmental, and imperial history of the Pacific World.

This paper explores a critical moment in European and world history. The years from the fall of Napoleon to the First World War were a period of revolutionary economic, social and political change in Europe - and beyond. For these years were marked by the ‘Great Divergence’ between the European continent and the rest of the Old World, as the discovery of new, coal-based technologies and the transformative impact of Atlantic trade allowed European economies and societies to enter a fundamentally new phase. This period saw the end of the old order in Europe, the making of ‘modernity’ on the European continent, and the dawn of a new age of colonial empire, in which the nation states of western Europe began to assert their authority on the world stage through a new wave of territorial expansion, economic exploitation and cultural imperialism. If ever there was ‘a European century’, this was it. Yet this was also a period in which what it meant to be European changed fundamentally with the definitive retreat of the Ottoman Empire from the Balkans. Even in northern Europe, modernization was contested, violent, and incomplete. The century that saw Europe approach the zenith of its power and influence across the globe also testified to the destructive forces unleashed by these changes, as the supposedly ‘civilized’ continent descended into carnage and revolution with the outbreak of the First World War.

These developments lie at the heart of this paper, which explores the transformations on the European continent as the map of Europe was redrawn and the nation state became the dominant form of political organisation from Greece in the south (1832) to Finland in the north (1918). The paper charts the rise of liberal politics through revolution and mass organization, and its achievements in the form of constitutional government, national sovereignty, electoral reform, peasant emancipation, religious toleration and press freedom. It will consider the connection between liberalism and broader social and cultural trends, such as new aesthetic movements (romanticism and realism), and new conceptions of the family and proper gender roles. Nineteenth century liberals sought to be modern, bracketing their politics with developments in science. They

aimed to impose modernity, and the national ideal, on sometimes reluctant populations through education, conscription, ‘good government’ and free trade. But throughout the period the liberal consensus was challenged. Imperial regimes, monarchists, aristocrats and conservatives fought to preserve elements of the Old Regime, often successfully. The churches in particular strove to retain their positions in state and society, while peasant rebels rejected conscription, taxation and the privatisation of land. Later more radical ideologies of socialism, anarchism and communism found homes in the organized labour movement. And towards the end of the period new forms of right-wing populism, nationalism and anti-semitism found an audience.

Meanwhile, the period witnessed “the first era of globalization”, leading to massive movements of goods, capital and people, assisted by economic developments such as the “Gold Standard” and the “Second Industrial Revolution”. Globalization and industrialisation created economic crises, and protectionism and xenophobia grew in the metropoles, while in the imperial arena European powers competed to grab raw materials and markets. But the period also witnessed the growth of internationalism and humanitarianism, both of which served to reinforce Eurocentric civilizational hierarchies. Yet, around 1900 there are signs of the waning of Western power, as imperial states such as Spain, Italy and Russia were all defeated overseas. Challenges were also visible in the fields of the arts and sciences, with a plethora of new movements attempting to capture the experience of rapid change (such as impressionism and expressionism) or comprehend it (the rise of the social sciences). It is arguable whether the First World War was the consequence of these crises and challenges, but it is unarguable that it released political, social and cultural forces that had developed over this period.

This was the period in which history itself emerged as an academic discipline, a process inextricably linked to the rise of nationalism and the birth of the modern state. All students will be expected to engage with ‘big picture’ debates about gender, modernisation, the nature of historicism and how to write the history of Europe in a postcolonial moment. The paper will also provide students with the opportunity to explore national and imperial trajectories in greater depth through a focus on specific societies from France in the west to the Ottoman and Russian empires in the east, and to study topics that reflect more transnational, comparative and connective approaches. Above all the paper will illuminate the complexity and diversity of European society and politics – broadly conceived – during this decisive phase in its evolution.


The purpose of this course is to offer a more distinctively ‘global’ approach to the world history of this period. What this means in practice is: an emphasis upon the significance of mobility and exchange – in goods, ideas and people – across Eurasia, the Americas, and Africa; upon supra-regional phenomena, including religions, patterns of consumption, environmental stresses and the differential impact of scientific and technical knowledge; and on the reciprocal influences exerted on each other by European, Asian, African and other societies. Asia and Africa may have been influenced by Europe, but the reverse was equally true.

1750 is an arbitrary starting point, but it marks, perhaps, the beginnings of a decisive shift in the relative position of the strongest European states and societies on the one hand and those of other parts of Eurasia on the other, and the onset of what some historians have called ‘the great divergence’ between the East and the West which, in wealth and power, has lasted into our own times. Part of the aim of the course is to consider some of the reasons for this, but also the factors behind the remarkable resilience of many Asian societies, Islamic and other. Inevitably, the assertion of European imperial power is an important part of the story. But there were other empires in Eurasia (the Ottoman, Qajar and Qing) with a strong instinct for survival and considerable success in keeping the Europeans at bay. What allowed them to do so? Why did they eventually collapse? This period is also one in which an astonishing range of new communities was formed in response to unprecedented levels of migration by Asians and Africans as well as Europeans; to the revolution in communications which allows a sense of community to extend over thousands of miles; to the economic changes associated with industrialisation and the creation of labour-hungry plantation and mining economies; and to the shifts in status and culture that encouraged new solidarities around gender or race, as well as reinforcing old ones based on religion.

Students will be required to write on a set of ‘thematic’ topics, as well as choosing from a list of ‘world regions’ in which to specialise. These include East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Black Atlantic, and the ‘neo-Europes’ of Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Here the emphasis will be less on the ‘internal’ histories of these regions, as on their connections with each other and with Europe.

The issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 marked the end of slavery. But the battle over the meaning of freedom would continue long past the short-lived period of federal Reconstruction, and is one of the central themes of the course. By the turn of the 20th century a system of rigid racial segregation and repression known as ‘Jim Crow’ took hold in the American South, a system that was intertwined with American imperialism, and would be constantly challenged, most famously during the civil rights and Black Power eras. Many other groups of Americans sought freedom and rights, often with high profile mass protest – this course includes the history of labour, women, sexuality and immigration.

The end of the Civil War in 1865 ensured the Union remained intact. But the previous pattern of federalism would never be fully re-established, and debates about the idea of the nation and the role of the State would also continue through the period of Reconstruction through to the present. In the late 19th century, the projection of federal power took the form mainly of Indian fighting and the disposal of public land, but growing calls were heard for a stronger federal role in regulating the national economy, and in ameliorating the increasing inequalities of wealth and power (such as during the New Deal and Great Society eras). In the late twentieth century, the debate about the size of government would be central to partisan politics.

The Civil War was but one of many that dramatically shaped American politics and society – the civil war, the Spanish-American war, the two world wars, and post-1945 conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East are all covered in the course, both in terms of the development of foreign policy, and in terms of those domestic impacts.

One of the most striking features of American history during this period (and a topic on the course) was massive economic expansion. Among its manifestations and consequences were mass immigration (until the 1920s), urbanization (since 1920, the United States has been a predominantly urban and more recently, suburban, nation), environmentalism (the first national park was created in the 1870s), and reformist and radical political protest movements (including Populism, Progressivism, and socialism).

The long twentieth century was also marked both by the continued power of evangelical religion and a rising humanist faith in the power of experts and new knowledge to solve hitherto unyielding problems such as poverty, alcoholism, and disease. Developments in popular and intellectual culture are also studied on this course, including their relation, and that of religion, to the increasingly shrill partisan politics of the later twentieth century.

Despite a strong strand of isolationism, the so-called American century was deeply interwined with global developments. Each topic on the course considers how Americans shaped, and were shaped by, world affairs. The course also considers how Americans, and those beyond the nation, have written American history.

The period from the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 to the fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989 forms a divided unity. Often referred to as Europe’s short 20th century, it was marked by two world wars and the cold war. The First World War led to unprecedented policies of state and social mobilization, and ended in revolution, civil wars and large-scale acts of ethnic cleansing. The collapse of the multinational empires of central and eastern Europe was accompanied by experiments at reshaping the nation state in line with competing authoritarian and democratic ideologies, while repeated economic crises challenged both national and European orders. This culminated in the overlapping military, political and ideological conflicts of the period that we term the Second World War, but which in fact encompassed a wide range of discrete conflicts from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, and which brought about the massive reshaping of the Continent, and its division into two self-contained entities. If the first half of this period (1914-45) was marked by instability and violent extremism culminating in genocide, the second half (1945-89) was remarkable for its relative stability and, especially in Western Europe, affluence. Political protesters in 1968 consciously adopted different methods from those of the earlier period, just as the economic crises in the 1970s were resolved in quite different ways from those of the 1920s and 30s. When Central and Eastern Europe were swept by popular revolutions in 1989, they did not follow the same course as the revolutions of 1917-21.

This paper covers twentieth century from the Great Depression and lead-up to the Second World War to the Second Iraq War. It explores the period of mid-century global conflict, the Cold War and the post-Cold War era from 1989 that is still unfolding.

The centre of gravity is outside Europe and in a sense there is no centre to the perspective taken by the paper at all. It combines multiple perspectives, that of the post-colonial alongside the ex-colonial world, of the communist alongside the non-communist world, of the developing world alongside the developed world. It is not an ‘area studies’ paper exploring discrete regions; rather it approaches key issues and themes in twentieth-century history as global problems with regional and local manifestations. It will include North America and Europe (and the UK) to the extent that these too were impacted upon or ‘entangled’ in global processes, for example in those of decolonization, globalization and environmentalism.

The paper will be divided into three parts: A. Wars and Geopolitics, c. 1930-c.1989; B. Global Disorders, c. 1989-2003; C. Global Cross-currents across the whole period.

With men predominantly the narrators of world history, historians have spent decades attempting to locate women’s voices and perspectives. This has given birth to a wealth of methodology that can now be used to problematize, question, and explore masculinity from transnational perspectives across history. In this course, we will challenge conventional ideas about gender by focusing on masculine communities and behaviours – how men and masculine-coded people present, behave, organise, talk about themselves, and have their bodies and identities complicated by race, class, politics, religion, and myth. What makes a man, how is gender expressed, and why has masculinity been such a dominant force in shaping history? 

Using both historical case studies and methodologies pioneered by social historians, feminist scholars, and queer theorists, the course examines ideas of maleness and manhood from the early medieval period to the present. It explores notions of community, querying men’s roles in the family and relationships within male-dominated environments. We investigate how social and cultural institutions shape and interact with masculinities, considering the place of men within major world religions and within political systems from medieval monasteries to the Soviet Union. Exploring a full range of global historical contexts, we examine how ‘universal’ male experiences – including work, violence, and sex – create identities and communities. Finally, this course challenges the notion of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ by considering marginalised and oppressed masculinities, from colonised and enslaved men to masculine women and transmasculine people. This course is designed to give students a rigorous and thorough introduction to gender history via an exciting new realm of study.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a great deal of historical writing on masculinity. Three themes in particular have emerged: (1) What kind of category is masculinity, and what is its relationship to theories of gender? Why is it that femininity does not play the same role in studies of women in the past; and what does this tell us about the weaknesses of masculinity as an analytical category? Is masculinity a sociological, psychological or even an economic concept? (2) Has masculinity changed over time; and if so, can we identify historical turning points? (3) Masculinity always seems to be ‘in crisis’: why is the literature set up like this, and what better ways of thinking about it might there be?

The course will explore masculinity over a very wide geographical and chronological range. It will consider a series of historical situations when masculinity seemed to be in flux. These would form the basis for case studies in tutorial essays (see list below).

  • Military and civic masculinities in the later Roman Empire
  • The rise of ascetic masculinity in the late Roman Christianity
  • Masculinity in barbarian law-codes
  • The introduction of clerical celibacy in C11 Europe
  • Masculinity and medieval warfare
  • Masculinity and youth: students and apprentices
  • Cross-dressing and forms of female masculinity in medieval and early modern Europe
  • The Reformation in Europe and the rise of two forms of clerical masculinity, married and celibate
  • Luther, beards and maleness
  • Professional and racial identities in early modern Europe
  • Masculinity, the industrial Revolution and new relations in the household
  • The rise of new forms of spirituality in nineteenth and twentieth century South Asia and its relationship to anti-colonial nationalism
  • Slavery and masculinity
  • Masculinity in post-World War II
  • The rise of the civil rights movement
  • Malcolm X and masculinity and race in C20 US.

We live in a knowledge economy, where scientific knowledge and technological know-how are keys to economic prosperity and cultural fertility. We are also witnessing the end of a long period in which superior science and technology has played a key role in propelling the West to global hegemony. Yet for most of recorded history, Europe was technologically relatively backward. As suggested by the term ‘Silk Road’ for the network of commercial corridors linking China with the Levant, East Asia was far in advance of the West in many areas of technology, including the ‘four great inventions’ which would help power the rise of the West: paper, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. The mediation of many of these inventions from east to west was only one respect in which the West lagged behind the Islamic world for a period as well.

Although the ‘Rise of the West’ is generally treated as an early modern topic, many of its technological roots unquestionably lie in the long-term exchange and development of technologies and technical skills. For this reason, this crucial topic cannot be studied properly without a broad chronological as well as geographical canvass. In the case of Europe, while some of the technological developments that contributed both to increasing per capita wealth and to imperial expansion were the product of indigenous innovation, many others were transmitted to Europe from Asia. The European focus of the paper treats both the eastern origins of many of these technologies and their impacts in Asia and throughout the world.

Although many of the topics of this paper are framed with reference to specific transformative technologies, its main focus is not with technological innovation per se so much as the broader cultural preconditions and outcomes of scientific and technological development. On the one hand, this means focusing on the social, cultural, political and religious contexts which fostered specific technical innovations, and which made other cultures impervious or receptive to them. On the other, it means focusing equal attention on the capacity of some technologies to transform aspects of some societies and not others. The secondary bibliography concentrates on the ways in which individual technologies, arising from particular circumstances in individual regions, have spread to impact on global history as a whole.

This broad context raises the key questions to be pursued in this paper. Why did some globally significant technologies originate in Asia centuries before they reached the West? How, when, and by what routes did they move westward? Why did some of these technologies only show their potential to change entire societies when they reached the West? What technological innovations were indigenous to the West, and how do we account for Europe’s new-found technological inventiveness during this period? Key topics will also be used to introduce students to broader debates in general historiography and global history. These include the print revolution, the military revolution, the Scientific Revolution, the 'Needham Question', the 'Rise of the West', and incipient globalization.


  • East and West, North and South: geographical co-ordinates of technological progress
  • Silk and its Road: the technological origins of global trade
  • The Medieval machine: saving of labour, harnessing inanimate energy; Lynn White and the debate over technological determinism
  • Finding Mecca: astrolabes and voyages of discovery
  • The Cult of the Machine: the artist-engineer, technical knowledge and theatres of machines
  • Knowledge as power: alchemy and experiment
  • War and innovation: origins of gunpowder; artillery and ballistics; fortification and surveying; guns and ships; European bellicosity and the Rise of the West
  • Non-European technology
  • Paper, press, writing, type, and engraving: Asian origins, European outcomes
  • Reinventing time: monastic hours, the mechanical clock, reordering work, the clockwork universe, and the mechanical world view
  • Repairing the senses: glass and lenses, the telescope and the astronomical revolution, the microscope and the corpuscular philosophy, instruments and the growth of empiricism and experimentation
  • Values and institutions: labour, learning, curiosity, imagination, aspiration, and innovation - (the sense of surpassing the ancients in terms of inventions)

This paper will explore warfare across the Eurasian land mass from the Mongol conquests to the Second World War. It will ask if there are distinctive continuities to land warfare in a region where, in absence of access to sea lanes, the greatest challenge to waging war was mobility. The nomadic armies of Chingis Khan and his Inner Asian successors found one way of overcoming this, to devastating effect, but by the mid-fourteenth century the ‘nomadic advantage’ in Eurasian warfare had begun to disappear. We will explore the reasons for this, and the methods used by the great early modern Eurasian land empires – Russian, Mughal, Ottoman, Safavid and Qing – to overcome it and to defeat their nomadic enemies.

At the other end of the Eurasian land mass, one aspect of the well-known ‘Military Revolution’ debate in European history is the assertion that transformations in the tactics and the size of European armies in the 16th and 17th centuries led to a decisive European military advantage over the rest of the world, which helps to explain European imperial expansion and dominance over the subsequent three centuries. Recently historians of Asia have questioned this, arguing that developments in military technology and tactics in East and South Asia more than kept pace with those in Europe, and that the ‘military divergence’ between Europe and Asia took place only at the end of the eighteenth century. Even some apparently ‘backward’ Asian societies such as Afghanistan proved able to resist European military expansion. The geographical scope of this paper allows us to explore this debate in depth, drawing on the rich historiography that now exists, in particular, for India and China.

Early 19th century Eurasian campaigns, notably Napoleon’s march on Moscow, suggest that the old logistical constraints still applied to land warfare in the region, but the coming of railways would transform Eurasian warfare, and give rise to a new geopolitical balance, most memorably sketched out in Halford Mackinder’s ‘Heartland’ thesis. Our examination of 20th - century warfare at both ends of the Eurasian continent – in the Russo-Japanese War, the Eastern Front of the First World War, Japan’s invasion of China and Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union – will seek to establish where continuities lie with earlier periods, and what transformations were wrought by new technology, notably air power.


The Catholic Church was the world’s first great transnational institution, and it remains essential for understanding modern global history and culture. As European Catholic powers extended their reach in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to the Americas, Africa and Asia, so the influence of the Catholic Church was also extended across the known world. Catholicism thus played a major role in forging cultures and identities in the wider world, and the history of Catholicism has as a result had a central place in the developing academic interest in global history. This paper explores Catholicism’s impact both inside and beyond Europe: as a system of belief, a vehicle for cultural transfer, and a repository of social memory. It uses Catholicism as a prism through which to view a wide range of questions in intellectual, cultural, social and political as well as religious history. It acknowledges the dynamic and reciprocal relationship between Rome and local societies, and between clergy and laity, while its span across the boundaries that conventionally distinguish ‘early modern’ and ‘modern’ allows us to interrogate the role of religious ideas and institutions in shaping society, politics and cultures over a longer period than is possible within the established outline papers.

The chronological limits of the paper are set by the Council of Trent (1545-63), the Church’s formal response to Protestantism, and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Church’s moment of ‘updating’ itself for the modern world. It therefore begins with the collapse of the medieval Christian consensus in Western Europe, continues through eras of global wars and revolutions, and ends with the Church at a moment of self-criticism: scrutinizing its internal and external development and reaching out to a new age. The global perspective of the paper will be enriched by an examination of the particularities of the many societies within which the Church had to operate. And it will engage with the lively and stimulating recent historiography in this area, enriched continually by new research on the extraordinary documentary and material remains of the Catholic world.


  • The institutional Church
  • Dogma and discipline
  • Preaching, propaganda, and missions
  • Expressions of faith
  • Catholicism and the family
  • Identity and community
  • Catholicism in war and peace
  • Catholic intellects

Please note that the options listed above are illustrative and may be subject to change.

Assessment: This papers is assessed with a 3-hour written examination