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Violence in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700 - HIS00073M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Stuart Carroll
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Violence was ubiquitous in sixteenth and seventeenth- century Europe; its control and suppression are fundamental to the very idea of early modernity. It was during this period that violence was first perceived as a constant feature of the human condition and identified as a major social and political problem, inspiring writers, painters and philosophers to address the issue. Religious division exacerbated civil conflict, but contrary to what one might expect, this period also saw a reduction in interpersonal violence, the use of torture and capital punishment.

This module investigates this apparent paradox, using violence to understand the tremendous social, political and religious upheavals of the age, while at the same time exploring the possibilities for peace, co-existence and civility.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of a specialist historiographical literature;
  • Present findings in an analytical framework derived from a specialist field;
  • Solve a well-defined historiographical problem using insights drawn from secondary and, where appropriate, primary sources.
  • Set out written findings using a professional scholarly apparatus.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing (RAW) weeks during which there are no seminars, and during which students research and write a formative essay, consulting with the module tutor. Students prepare for eight seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. The Problem of Violence
  2. Representing Violence
  3. War
  4. Religious Violence
  5. Interpersonal Violence
  6. Justice & the Law
  7. Peace
  8. Civility


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay in week 9.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For reading during the module, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Ruff, Julius. Violence in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.)
  • Antony, Robert, Carroll, Stuart, and Dodds-Pennock, Caroline, The Cambridge World History of Violence, vol 3: 1500-1800. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.)
  • Carroll, Stuart, Violence and Enmity in Early Modern Europe. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023)

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.