Spring 2001, Tues 2-4pm, Robinson Hall 105

Instructor: Ann Blair, Robinson Hall 216; 5-0752; Office hours: M 2:30-4:30; amblair at fas.harvard.edu


History 1309

History in early modern Europe

Conference Course

This course will examine the cultural significance of history as a discipline and as a practice in Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. We will consider the nature and purposes of different kinds of historical writing and the ways in which histories were read and used. Histories were written to justify disciplines, states and religions; at the same time historical research prompted the development of new scholarly methods and subdisciplines. Emphasis on readings from primary sources including Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Francis Bacon, Voltaire and Gibbon.


-regular attendance; active and informed participation, including one oral presentation (to be scheduled in the first weeks of term) (30%)

-short paper (4-6pp) due March 8 (Week V) (20%)

-pre-paper (4-6pp) due in Week XIV and final research paper (12-15pp) on a topic of student's choice (that meets with my approval) due at the end of reading period. (50%) Please note: the grade of the pre-paper will be overwritten by the final grade for the research paper; but if you do not submit a pre-paper in Week XIV, the final grade for the research paper will be downgraded by one full grade point (e.g. from A to B).

Books available for purchase at the COOP. All purchases are optional--these books are also on reserve at Lamont:

Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People Penguin, 1991. ISBN: 0-87220-103-1 $12.95

Guicciardini, Francesco. The History of Italy. ed Sidney Alexander. Princeton University Press. 1984. 0-691-00800-0 $22.95

Valla, Lorenzo. The treatise of Lorenzo Valla on the donation of Constantine. tr. Christopher Coleman. Univ of Toronto Press 1993. 0-802-07734-X $17.95

Donald B. Kelley, Faces of History: historical inquiry from Herodotus to Herder. Yale UP, 1998. 0-300-07558-8. $18.00

Gibbon. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ed. David Womersley. vol. I. Penguin, 1996. 0-14-043393-7. $24.95

Montesquieu, Considerations on the Cause of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline (1999). 0-87220-496-0. $12.95

Starred readings will be supplied in photocopy form.


Week I (Feb 6): introduction

course topics and goals; overview of the historiography in the field; in-class reading of examples of ancient historiography

Week II (Feb 13): an example of medieval historiography

Reading: Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, preface,. Book I, chs. 1-16, 22-26, 33-34 (pp. 1-29, 36-40, 60-2), Book IV, chs. 1-15. (pp. 168-97) + skim freely!

Kelley, Faces of history, pp. 1-31, 42-70.

*Peter Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past, "Medieval historical thought"

Week III (Feb 20): doing history--then and now

*session to be held at Houghton Library. meet in the lobby at 2pm *you'll be asked to put all your belongings in a locker except for paper and PENCIL*

Reading: *Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History ch. 2: the historiographical operation

*Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, "How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy," Past and Present, pp. 30-78

*Peter Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past, pp. 145-50.

Week IV (Feb 27): Humanism I--history and philology

Reading: Lorenzo Valla, Treatise on the Donation of Constantine, entire

*Peter Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past, pp. 21-69

Presentation: Grafton, Critics and Forgers

Week V (Mar 6): Humanism II--history and rhetoric

Reading: Guicciardini, History of Italy, 100pp. TBA

*Ranke, "Critique of Guicciardini," in Ranke, The Secret of world history: selected writing on the art and science of history ed. Roger Wines (1981), pp. 77-98.

Kelley, Faces of History, ch. 6.

*Peter Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past, pp. 105-30.

Presentation: Machiavelli as historian

PAPER #1 DUE on Thursday March 8, 5pm in my mailbox in Robinson Hall 200 (on Bede, Valla, Guicciardini or Machiavelli)

Week VI (Mar 13): history as moral instruction

Reading: *Jean Bodin, Method for the easy comprehension of history, pp. 1-56, 63-65, 73-75, 85-117.

*Montaigne, "Defense of Seneca and Plutarch" Essays II, 32

*G. Nadel, "The Philosophy of History before Historicism," History and Theory

*Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past, pp. 77-104.

Week VII (Mar 20): history as legitimation (I): nations


Reading: *Richard Waswo, The Founding Legend of Western Civilization, pp.21-37, 119-26.

*George Huppert, The Idea of Perfect History, pp. 72-87.

*Bodin, Method for the easy comprehension of history, pp. 334-64.

*Peter Burke, The Renaissance Sense of the Past, pp. 69-76.

Presentation: histories of the New World; using Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of the Renaissance

Week VIII (Mar 27): *spring break*

Week IX (Apr 3): history as legitimation (II): disciplines and confessions

Reading: *Vasari, Lives of the Artists, pp. 3-14, 47-58, 277-98.

*Polydore Vergil, On the inventors of things, pp. 23-73, 181-93, 230-7, 247-58.

*Peter Burke, "The Origins of Cultural History" in Varieties of Cultural History

Presentation: John Foxe, Book of martyrs (using Kelley ch. 7 for secondary background) OR Paolo Sarpi, History of the Interdict in Brendan Dooley ed. and tr., Italy in the Baroque, pp. 148-83.

Week X (Apr 10): historical evidence

Reading: Grafton, The footnote: a curious history

*Jean Mabillon, On diplomatics in Gay ed., Historians at Work, pp. 161-98.

Kelley, Faces of History, ch. 8.

Presentation: antiquarianism, using Peter Miller, Peiresc's Europe (or other sources)

Week XI (Apr 17): Bible history and universal history

Reading: *La Peyrere, Men before Adam

*Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary, excerpts ("David")

*secondary source TBA

Presentation: Newton as historian, using Frank Manuel, Isaac Newton historian

Week XII (Apr 24): Enlightenment (I)--France

Reading: Montesquieu, Considerations on the causes of the greatness and decline of the Romans, entire

Kelley, Faces of History ch. 9.

Presentation: Voltaire on history

Week XIII (Apr 29): Enlightenment (II)--England

Reading: Gibbon, Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, pp. TBA

Kelley, Faces of History, ch. 10.

Presentations: David Hume, History of England

Week XIV (May 1): student presentations on their papers in progress


FINAL PAPERS DUE MAY 16 (last day of reading period)

Note: extensions will be granted exceptionally until May 19 (you must ask ahead of time and be granted the extension explicitly); any work still outstanding as of May 19 will be brought to the attention of the student's Senior Tutor/Freshman Dean and incur lateness penalties.