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  • Semester 1Clemente Program
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  • Semester 1Online Scheduled
  • ACU Term 1Online Unscheduled
  • ACU Term 2Online Unscheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

Over the period 1500-1789 Europe's self-understanding shifted dramatically as its international power and consequently its relationship with the rest of the world were transformed. Social and cultural historians study how people in Europe experienced life and understood the local environment and community around them as they struggled with war, famine and pandemics alongside times of great growth and expansion. This unit debates the way the early modern world should be understood and considers changing beliefs about religion and magic; issues of politics and power; cultural and intellectual life; economics and technological trends and the articulation of European power and identity in the international arena. Students will draw on the fascinating primary sources of the era as well as secondary sources written by historians to develop their understanding of the unit's themes through inquiry-based research activities. The aim of this unit is to develop students' capacity to analyse key developments in early modern European history and the key debates that surround this fascinating era.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe a range of factual knowledge and arguments about the social, cultural, and political history of early modern Europe.GC1
LO2Communicate clearly in written and/or oral formGC1, GC11
LO3Use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary sources relevant to the history of early modern Europe to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argumentGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10
LO4Apply critical reading skills to your understanding of the histories of early modern EuropeGC2, GC3, GC9
LO5Identify and reflect on key ethical and historical debates relating to real-world situations/case studies relating to early modern European peoplesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC11


Topics will include:  

Picturing the Past:  

  • How historians ‘decode’ maps, images and documents from the early modern era 
  • Urban and rural societies in early modern Europe 
  • Social structures of everyday life 


Debating the Past: 

  • History as debate and how to debate historical ideas 
  • Reformation and Contest: re-forming religion, popular and magical beliefs 
  • Tolerance and persecution: Christians, Jews and Muslims in early modern Europe 
  • Order and Power: case studies may include: law and order; race; gender, sex and the body; witch-hunts 


Mapping Power: 

  • The exploratory impulse: Europe turns outwards 
  • The consolidation of absolutism  
  • and the monarchical nation-state:  
  • war and violence within Europe 
  • Colonial violence in the early modern period: slavery, Indigenous peoples and First Nations 


Evaluating change over time: (case studies will be drawn from)

  • The Enlightenment 
  • Gender and power
  • Early industrialisation in Europe 
  • Prelude to revolution

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10-credit point unit provides hands-on learning. It provides activities through which students will gain a deep understanding of the history of early modern Europe and the skills fundamental to the study of history. Key learning activities will include debating, learning to ‘read’ and interpret early modern images, writing and other primary sources, reading, writing, group discussion, finding scholarly sources, and problem-solving. In on-campus, multimode or online scheduled modes the lectures provide students with content and analytical frameworks necessary for understanding and analysing the early modern period and assist students to synthesise a broad range of material.

Students in this unit will be encouraged to develop specific skills in reading and understanding primary sources; begin to understand the dynamics of historical and historiographical debate and incorporate secondary material into their own research and analysis. This unit introduces students to historical strategies for understanding how to interpret an extensive arc of history.

Mode of delivery: This unit may be offered in different modes, as described below.

On Campus

Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.


Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions, to enable interaction. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.

Online unscheduled

Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 

Online scheduled

All learning activities are held online, at scheduled times, and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

ACU Online 

In ACU Online mode, this unit is delivered asynchronously, fully online using an active, guided learning approach. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress.

This unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In the History discipline, first-year units are designed to include a selection of the following assessment tasks to build skills around the discipline:

•         Primary source document analyses (maps, images and documents)

•         Analytical reading challenges

•         synchronous and asynchronous debates

•         Library exercises

•         Research Essay/Challenges

•         Online discussion boards

•         Short answer responses

•         Short quizzes

In this unit, students will learn to understand the dynamics of historical debate and how historians debate topics about the past. Students will research, construct and defend a historical argument in the ‘Debating the past’ task. Students then build on the skills developed in the debate to complete an independent research task that incorporates evidence from primary and secondary material into their own research and analysis. This unit introduces students to historical strategies for understanding how to interpret a broad sweep of history. Students in this unit will be encouraged to develop specific skills in reading and understanding primary and secondary sources on early modern Europe. They will be asked to apply skills and content learned through their readings and classes over the semester in the summative task.   

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Debating the past’ task 

Students research, construct and defend an historical argument and evaluate competing theories about one of the hotly debated areas of early modern history.   


LO1, LO2

Written Summative Assessment:  

Requires students to demonstrate a mastery of unit materials and content and apply analytical skills to understand how time, place, politics and context have shaped debates about early modern Europe. 


The lecturer may designate this task to be in the form of quizzes, short answer responses, test/s, take-home exams, exams, reflective essays or simulation exercises. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

Research Assignment:  

Requires students to demonstrate research skills to locate and use primary and secondary materials appropriate to studies on early modern Europe (political, civil, economic, social, religious or cultural themes) and to communicate clearly in written or digital form to construct a written evidence-based historical narrative or argument with appropriate referencing. 

Topics and guidelines will be posted on Canvas. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Broomhall, Susan. Authority, Gender and Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern England. Edited by Susan Broomhall. 1st ed. 2015. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015

Cameron, E. The European Reformation.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 (2nd edn). 

Capern, Amanda L., ed. The Routledge History of Women in Early Modern Europe. London ; Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2020

Guasco, Michael. Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.  

Kissane, Christopher. Food, Religion, and Communities in Early Modern Europe. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018

Levack, B. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 

O’Leary, Jessica. Elite Women as Diplomatic Agents in Italy and Hungary, 1470-1510 : New edition. Leeds: Arc Humanities Press, 2022.

Peters, Erin, and Cynthia Richards, eds. Early Modern Trauma : Europe and the Atlantic World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2021

Tarantino, Giovanni. Feeling Exclusion : Religious Conflict, Exile, and Emotions in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Giovanni Tarantino and Charles Zika. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2019.

Weisner-Hanks, M. Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013 (2nd edn).  

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