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Unit information: Enlightenment Europe (Level C Special Topic) in 2017/18

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Unit name Enlightenment Europe (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST14005
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sheldon
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit introduces the phenomenon of enlightenment in Europe. A broad movement that sought to understand man and society, enlightenment defines the intellectual history of the eighteenth century and leaves a profound mark upon today. Answering the question ‘what is enlightenment?’ The philosopher Kant answered that it was a movement towards ‘man’s release from his self-incurred immaturity’ and urged his readers adopt the motto ‘dare to know’. Enlightenment thinkers attempted to leave behind the traditional sources of authority and knowledge - the church, divine right monarchs and their followers and to forge new, rational ways of understanding and organizing society. So profound has been the legacy of enlightenment that it is today credited or blamed for everything between modern liberal democracy and the totalitarian states of the twentieth Century.


  • To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.
  • To introduce students to working with primary sources
  • To introduce students to issues relating to setting primary sources in their wider context
  • To introduce students to the practice of learning independently within a small-group context
  • To provide an introduction to the history of enlightenment Europe and its legacy

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • deepened their understanding of a particular aspect of current historical research
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from a small-group environment
  • gained an understanding of the phenomenon of enlightenment in Europe

Teaching details

10 x 2 hour seminars.

Assessment Details

1 x 2 hour exam

Reading and References

Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment (2008)

Roy Porter, Enlightenment: Britain and the Making of the Modern World (2000)

Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (2009)

Tzvedan Todorov, In Defence of the Enlightenment (2009)

Volaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation (1721)