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HIS 102: Western Civilization II

A History of the Western Intellectual Tradition:
From the Renaissance to the End of the Cold War

Professor Steven Kreis
Department of History and Politics
Meredith College
Fall 1999

COURSE OUTLINE – This course is designed to give the undergraduate student a general understanding of those major intellectual trends which have appeared in the West since the Renaissance. Although our focus is European, we will also find it necessary to discuss developments in the United States and in Russia since these two areas play such a large role in the 20th century. As an intellectual history, we will discuss ideas and their development in the course of the past five or six centuries. We begin with the breakdown of the Medieval Christian matrix during the Renaissance, the emphasis upon human reason in the 17th-19th centuries (science, revolution, industrial capitalism) and finally, the breakdown of human reason in the 20th century (modernism, fascism, world war). A class such as this give us an excellent opportunity to illustrate not only what forces perhaps “made” the past but the present as well.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS – Attendance and informed participation at all class meetings is required. This means that you (1) show up to class on a regular basis and (2) complete your assignments on time. The entire success of the course, both from my standpoint and yours, is that you get involved, get interested and get motivated to study the history of a world which in many ways produced our own. Remember, education is nothing more than dialogue, and according to the master of dialogue, Socrates, good dialogue ought to improve both the instructor and the student. Above all, you will be challenged to think and discuss freely and openly.


Marvin Perry, Western Civilization: A Brief History, vol II: From the 1400s
Marvin Perry et al, Sources of the Western Tradition, vol II: From the Renaissance to the Present

READING ASSIGNMENTS – The reading for this course is light to moderate when compared to what you might have encountered in other courses. Your textbook is an excellent one and I have used a slightly different version of it many times in the past. Given the brevity of the text (around 400 pages) you should have no problem completing your assignments on time. I have also assigned an anthology of primary source readings for this course. Selections from this anthology will be read in conjunction with your text and will often form the context of our in-class discussions.

You must make the effort to keep up with the assigned readings. If you have not done the reading for a particular assignment, you should still come to class. Of course, if you have done the reading, and are prepared to discuss what you have read with others, then your experience in this class will be a fruitful one.

THE INTERNET – I have maintained my own website, The History Guide, since August 1996. This site, which can be found at, contains a wealth of information which you will find useful so I expect you to consult it as often as you like. You will be happy to learn that all of the lectures I deliver in class are online. I will discuss this more in detail during the first week of the semester. I encourage all of you to send me email as often as the need arises. I will be sending you all email on a weekly basis as well. Lastly, I have also written a lengthy Student’s Guide to the Study of History, which can be accessed at

THE CLASS – My conduct in the class, as you will soon see, is based on a genuine respect for the intellect of the student. My approach is informal and at times, irreverent. Just the same, I take my work very seriously and I expect you to do so as well. If you show up late for a class I expect you to enter the room as discreetly as possible. If you miss any class it is your responsibility to make sure that you make up for lost ground. I have found that a format of lecture AND discussion works to the advantage of everyone involved, including myself. If you are not prepared to at least think about our subject, then I suggest you will have a tough time overall. In other words, come to class prepared to learn and discuss new ideas, and above all, THINK!

GRADING – Your final grade will be determined by the following schedule. The Exams are inclusive, that is, they deal with a specific block of time. There is no midterm or final examination. The Written Assignments (expect one every other week or so) will be based on your interpretation of an assigned reading or group of readings. Your preparation for each class – reading, discussing, questioning – will determine your grade for Class Participation.

First Exam                       25%
Second Exam                  25%
Third Exam                      25%
Writing Assignments        15%
Class Participation           10%


August 18 Course Introduction
August 23 (1) The Medieval Matrix
(2) The Idea of a Renaissance
(3) Italian Humanism: da Vinci and Machiavelli
READING:   Text: pp. xix-xxxi, 212-226
August 25 (1) Northern Humanism: More and Erasmus
(2) DISCUSSION – The Renaissance: A Problem of Definition Sources: READING:  Sources: pp. xiv-xvii, 2-15
August 30 (1) The Protestant Reformation (Part 1)
(2) Antecedents: Fra Savonarola
(3) Martin Luther
READING:  Text: pp. 226-235
                      Sources: pp. 15-19
September 1 (1) The Protestant Reformation (Part 2)
(2) John Calvin and the Spirit of the Age
(3) The Radical Reformation
(4) The Catholic Response
READING:    Text: pp.235-241
September 6 Labor Day -- No Classes
September 8 (1) The Scientific Revolution, 1543-1642
(2) Copernicus to Galileo
(3) The Scientific Method: Descartes and Locke
READING:   Text: pp. 243-246, 262-275, 276-283
                       Sources: pp. 29-33, 37-41
September 13 (1) The Scientific Revolution, 1642-1700
(2) The Diffusion of the New Science
(3) Isaac Newton and the Newtonian World View
READING:   Text: pp. 283-289
                       Sources: pp. 42-44, 47-52
September 15 (1) The Age of Enlightenment
(2) Reason, Criticism and Freedom
READING:   Text: pp. 289-302, 306-307
September 20 DISCUSSION: What were the philosophes trying to accomplish?
READING:   Sources: pp. 54-56, 59-66, 68-70, 79-82, 88-89
September 22 FIRST EXAMINATION (1350-1789)
September 27 (1) The Ancien Regime
(2) The Origins of the French Revolution
READING:   Text: pp. 312-319
                       Sources: pp. 91-92, 95-98
September 29 (1) The French Revolution -- The Moderate Stage, 1789-1792
(2) The French Revolution -- The Radical Stage, 1792-1794
READING:   Text: pp. 319-331
                       Sources: pp. 98-104, 109-111
October 4 (1) The Age of the Hero
(2) Napoleon -- Jacobin Revolutionary or Totalitarian Tyrant?
READING:   Text: pp. 331-341
                       Sources: pp. 112-116
October 6 (1) The Origins of the Industrial Revolution
(2) England: The First Industrial Nation
(3) The Social Consequences of Industrial Capitalism
READING:   Text: pp. 344-354, 357-362
                       Sources: pp. 118-128
October 11 Fall Break -- No Classes
October 13 (1) The Age of Ideologies (Part 1)
(2) Romanticism and Idealism
(3) Conservatism and Liberalism
READING:   Text: pp. 364-381
                       Sources: pp. 138-140, 143-145, 146-148
October 18 (1) The Age of Ideologies (Part 2)
(2) Positivism, Darwinism and Marxism
READING:   Text: pp. 409-422
                       Sources: pp. 173-179
October 20 (1) Late 19th Century Europe
(2) The Second Industrial Revolution
(3) The New Imperialism
READING:   Text: pp. 429-453, 463-464
                       Sources: pp. 195-200, 202-208, 212-215, 230-234
October 25 SECOND EXAMINATION (1789-1900)
October 27 (1) The Thrust Toward Modernism (Part 1)
(2) Nietzsche -- The Parable of the Madman
READING:   Text: pp. 467-473
                       Sources: pp. 264-275
November 1 (1) The Thrust Toward Modernism (Part 2)
(2) Freud -- Irrational Man and Civilization
(3) The Modernist Movement
READING:   Text: pp. 473-489
                       Sources: pp. 275-280, 286-290
November 3 FILMPaths of Glory
READING:   Text: 494-510, 516-523
                       Sources: pp. 292-294, 305-307
November 8 (1) The Age of Anxiety: Europe in the 1920s
(2) Modernism
(3) Mussolini and Hitler
READING:   Text: pp. 547-561
                       Sources: pp. 323-326, 362-366, 370-374
November 10 (1) Totalitarianism
(2) Stalin and Hitler
READING:   Text: pp. 561-582
                       Sources: pp. 342-344, 347-350, 352-354
November 15 FILMStalin (Part 1)
READING:   Text: pp. 525-545
November 17 FILMStalin (Part 2)
November 22 (1) Hitler and World War Two
(2) The Holocaust
(3) Post-War Anxieties
READING:   Text: pp. 586-607
                       Sources: pp. 391-396, 398-401, 410-416
November 24 Thanksgiving -- No Classes
November 29 The Origins of the Cold War
READING:   Text: pp. 612-628
                       Sources: pp. 422-429
December 1 (1) 1968: The Year of the Barricades
(2) 1989: The Walls Came Tumbling Down
READING:   Text: pp. 628-642
                       Sources: pp. 429-437
December 4-14 THIRD EXAMINATION (1914-2000) -- TBA
December 12 Commencement

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