MO3041 Culture and mentalities in early modern England, c.1500-1800
Lecturer Professor R A Houston (St Katharine's Lodge, Room 0.06)
Credits 30
Availability Semester 2, 2019-20
Class Hour view timetable

This module explores aspects of English life, behaviour and attitudes in a period of profound social, political, economic, religious and legal change. Topics which may be covered include ‘alternative’ belief (inc. astrology and witchcraft), technology and the rise of science, environment, local, regional, and national identities, consumption and the world of goods, recreation and leisure,  literacy and communication, time, space and work, individualism and corporatism, risk and probability, crime and violence, and patterns of punishment. The course has an historiographical component, exploring why and how historians have written about the topics it contains. Using printed or online primary source material and secondary reading will enable students critically to summarize and evaluate scholarly arguments, assess the nature and value of historical debate, and gain insights into the long-lost mental world of this fascinating period.

Basic Reading
  • DAUNTON, M. J., Progress and poverty: an economic and social history of Britain, 1700-1850 (Oxford, 1995).
  • MACFARLANE, A., The culture of capitalism (Oxford, 1987).
  • REAY, B., Popular cultures in England, 1550-1750 (London, 1998).
  • SHARPE, J. A., Early modern England. A social history, 1550-1760 (1987. London, 1997).
  • WRIGHTSON, K., English society, 1580-1680 (1982. 2nd edition: London, 1993).
  • WRIGHTSON, K., Earthly necessities. Economic lives in early modern Britain (New Haven, 2000).
  • WRIGHTSON, K., (ed.), A social history of England, 1500-1750 (Cambridge, 2017).


Course Structure

  1. religion 1: mainstream faiths
  2. religion 2: ‘alternative’ belief (inc. astrology and witchcraft)
  3. environment,technology and science
  4. consumption and the world of goods
  5. recreation and leisure
  6. education, literacy and their uses
  7. time, space and work
  8. individualism and corporatism
  9. risk and probability
  10. crime and violence patterns of punishment

Assessment 40% examination - 3-hour paper
60% coursework

Learning Outcomes

  • Emphasis on an empathetic rather than a judgmental understanding of the people of the past
  • Awareness of approaches from other disciplines
  • Development of teacher-assisted student self learning
Restrictions Anti-requisites: MO3015