In this course we will examine some of the main features of 'European' history, until the beginning of the Reformation, ca. 1500. I put 'European' in quotes, because there has never been a clear geographical definition of Europe, being one relatively small corner of the large Eurasian land mass. Where does Asia begin and Europe end? It is easier to think of Europe in a cultural, rather than a geographical sense. From this perspective, one can include peoples and areas somewhat removed from that n.w. corner of Eurasia. The three major monotheistic religions that have been present in 'Europe' at one time or another, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all began in the Middle East. Mesopotamia and Egypt, along with Greece and Anatolia, served as the 'birthplaces' of many of the elements of culture which we now call 'western' or 'European.' Of course, 'Europe' was not the only culture where these religions and other cultural elements took root, and 'Europe' does share with many other parts of the world some of these common heritages. We will be examining what 'culture' was and is and how it emerges and how it changes. We will be meeting some interesting individuals and groups, some quite different from those we know today, others in many ways similar. We will be coming to terms with 'time', a surprisingly difficult concept, and in so doing, begin to place ourselves in meaningful contexts, most of which are defined by space and time, and especially the latter.
As with all elements of your education, in this course what you learn will be largely the result of your own efforts to learn -- through critical reading, discussion, and writing. In-class time will be devoted to some "lectures" by the instructor, an occasional video presentation [sometimes a picture is worth the proverbial 1000 words], and discussion.
So that discussion can be more than one-way presentation of information [from instructor to student], it is essential that you complete the assigned reading for a given week in time for use in class. Often the class will be devoted to looking at the primary sources that you have read, and written about. We will be spending some time learning how historians can learn about the past - what the 'past' is, and how we can 'get there;' and often our tools will be 'primary' sources.
Please always look at least two weeks ahead on the syllabus so that you can plan for completion of your assignments in a timely manner. In each week, the individual assignments should be submitted by email no later than Saturday evening of the week of assignment.
From time to time I will be adding information to this syllabus, so it is important to consult it on the WWW, not on an early printed-out copy. There will be a link, below, to other WWW sites which may be of use in learning about Europe during this period.
E-mail is the easiest and surest way of contacting me - my office phone has no answering machine. I do work on e-mail a couple of times a day, seven days a week.