A Global Reformation? - HIS00006I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Simon Ditchfield
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2016-17

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2016-17

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to important specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological or geographical focus;
  • To enable them to work on those topics by combining access to the specialised expertise of staff through lectures with their own close study and discussion of issues and reading;
  • To deepen students' understanding and appreciation of a range of historical subjects and issues; and
  • To support students' progression from the broad chronological and conceptual work undertaken at Stage 1 of their programme to more detailed and rigorous study of particular topics.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a broad overview of specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological and geographical focus;
  • Be able to evaluate different interpretations of the subject matter and approaches to it;
  • Gain a critical awareness of the primary material and secondary works used in these interpretations and approaches; and
  • Be able to synthesise information from lectures, discussion groups and reading to make evidence-based arguments both orally and in writing

Module content

The election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis I on 13 March 2013 has been seen by many as a new chapter in the history of Roman Catholicism. Yet the advent of the first pope from the New World was anticipated ca.1500-ca.1700 by a period which, for all its incompleteness, saw the making of Roman Catholicism as a world religion. Missionaries such as the Portuguese Jesuit Manuel de Nóbrega (1517-70) in Brazil, for whom famously ‘One World is not enough’, brought Christianity to the four inhabited continents of the world for the first time in history. Although scholars no longer see this in such one-way terms as ‘spiritual conquest’, but rather as negotiated two-way outcomes, where the role of ‘go-betweens’ and the reciprocal dynamics of ‘cultural encounter’ need to be taken into account. Accordingly, this module looks not only at the Roman Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation – the so-called ‘Counter Reformation’ - but also at how Roman Catholicism adapted itself to local conditions from Rome to the River Plate; Milan to Manila (via Mexico). Among the concepts and topics to be considered are: confessionalisation; censorship & inquisition; social discipline; language and communication (including catechisms and preaching); liturgy and the cult of saints. Since early modern Catholicism engaged all the senses, the lectures will deal with music, art and architecture as well as written and printed sources, while the weekly discussion groups give students the opportunity to engage with a correspondingly broad selection of primary sources in translation.

Teaching Programme:
This 20-credit module consists of 16 twice weekly lectures delivered in Weeks 2-9 plus one round-up session in Week 10, and eight 90 minute discussion groups.

The provisional lecture programme is as follows:-

  1. Understanding practice: what was ‘local religion’?
  2. Understanding theory: the Council of Trent
  3. The setting: Rome as ‘theatre of the world’
  4. The papacy and the papal court
  5. The missionary enterprise outside Europe I: going west
  6. The missionary enterprise outside Europe II: going east
  7. The missions to ‘the other Indies’: methods & outcomes
  8. Some local protagonists I: bishops
  9. Some local protagonists II: the female religious
  10. Some local protagonists III: the laity
  11. Drawing boundaries I: making sinners
  12. Drawing boundaries II: making saints
  13. Persecution and identity I: 17th century Japan
  14. Persecution and identity II: 16th century York
  15. Conclusion: confessionalisation and its limits
  16. ‘Trent and All That’: recap and revision

Possible seminar discussions might deal with the following :-

  1. What was ‘local religion’
  2. The Papal Prince and his city
  3. Missions outside Europe vs missions inside Europe
  4. Bishops and their flock
  5. Nuns behaving badly
  6. How to make a Counter-Reformation saint/heretic
  7. Salvation at stake: early modern martyrdom and persecution
  8. De-centering the Counter-Reformation


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay, due in either Week 5 or Week 7 of the Autumn Term. They will then complete a 2,000-word assessed essay, due in Week 1 of the Spring Term.


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative assessments

  • Within two working weeks of the completion of the assessment task. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

Summative assessments

  • Within six working weeks of the completion of the assessment task. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

Bender, Thomas (editor). Rethinking American History in a Global Age. Berkeley: California University Press, 2002.

Gilmore, Glenda and Thomas J. Sugrue. These United States: A Nation in the Making, 1890 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015.

Kessler-Harris, Alice. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Rodgers, Daniel. Age of Fractures. Cambridge, Mass.: Belnkap, 2012.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.