MO3050 The Northern World, 1523-1725
Lecturer Professor Steve Murdoch   (St Katharine's Lodge, room 1.14)
Credits 30
Availability Semester 1, 2016-17
Class Hour view timetable


Histories of early modern Europe usually focus on the west and the south; more often than not the north is seen as a peripheral latecomer to the European party.  This module will take issue with that assumption by looking at the northern world on its own terms.  We will explore a wide range of sources, from sea-monster-filled maps to choral music, across a geographical area encompassing Scotland, Scandinavia, Germany, Poland-Lithuania, Livonia, and Russia.  We will look at these lands from transnational and interdisciplinary perspectives, asking ourselves questions such as: how did the Little Ice Age shape culture?  Why were seventeenth-century books on Lapland bestsellers?   And, most importantly, was Sweden really Atlantis?



Basic Reading

Fjågesund, Peter.  The Dream of the North: A Cultural History to 1920.  Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2014.

Kirby, David and Merja-Liisa Hinkkanen.  The Baltic and the North Seas.  London and New York: Routledge, 2000.  

Murdoch, Steve.  Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746.  Leiden: Brill, 2006.  

North, Michael.  The Baltic: A History, trans. Kenneth Kronenberg.  Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Course Structure

The module will consist of an introductory session and ten further sessions.

1. Introduction 
An introduction to the geographical, chronological, and theoretical extent of the course.

2. Religions 
Exploration of the multiple religions present in the north during this period including Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Judaism, and Shamanism.

3. Histories 
How did northern Europeans conceptualise their own history?  A look at Goths, Druids, Atlantis, and other narratives of the historical past.

4. Networks
The northern world survived because of networks: mercantile, social, military, and otherwise.  How we can recover these flows of people, goods, and ideas?  What can they tell us?

5. Art and Architecture 
Renaissance?  Baroque?  Are these terms useful in thinking about northern art?  What was it, who produced it, and why?

6. Music 
So-called “classical” and “ethnic” musics co-existed in the north throughout this period.  How did they interact?  How did people use them, whether for display, expression, or coercion?

7. Literature 
Is there such a thing as “northern literature”?  What do a Gaelic funeral lament and a Latin poem written by a Polish nobleman have in common?  Was there such a thing as “literary” prose during this period?

8. Education 
What was education like in the schools and universities of the north?  How did the movement of students and scholars shape northern cultures?

9. Scholarship 
Although humanist ideas came late to the north, they were eagerly adopted and transformed.  Can we identify a “northern renaissance” in scholarship?  What were its concerns?

10. War 
This period is perhaps defined by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the Great Northern War (1700-1721).  What did they mean both for soldiers and civilians?  How did they shape the flow of people, goods, and ideas?

11. Thinking North
What is ‘North’?  How was it defined, understood, and mythologised and how does that continue to affect our understandings of this part of the world? 



40% two hour examination
60% coursework - Essay 1 - 2,500 - 3,000 words, Essay 2 - 4,000- 5,000 words and an Oral Presentation


Learning Outcomes By the end of this module students should be able to:
  • Reflect on the role of national identity in shaping perceptions of northern Europe.
  • Theorise about transnational and transcultural links in the northern world.
  • Compose original essays with an interdisciplinary basis.
Deliver sophisticated oral arguments engaging with a diverse and contradictory set of sources.
Restrictions None