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Rome Reborn: Culture and Society c.1575-c.1655 - Semester 1 - HIS00213H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Simon Ditchfield
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

The epoch which opened with the Holy Year celebrations of 1575 and closed with the death of Pope Innocent X in 1655 undoubtedly marks the apogee of Rome as ‘Theatre of the World’: triumphant arbiter of cultural, artistic and intellectual fashion. It was during this period that painters such as Caravaggio and the Carracci and architects such as Borromini and virtuosi such as Bernini put the ‘B’ into Baroque and gave Rome the face it still wears today. Behind these artistic and architectural creations lay the cultural forces of such new religious orders as the Jesuits and Oratorians. The latter, led by their charismatic founder, Filippo Neri - a kind of Christian Socrates - developed a specifically urban spirituality of prayer and processions which harnessed humour as well as the ‘sweet deception’ of music to put across their message. The Jesuits emerged as the intellectual praetorian guard of reformed, global Roman Catholicism, with the Roman College their stronghold and the ‘Method of Study’ (perhaps the single most influential educational programme ever conceived) their manifesto. Also examined will be the city’s flourishing culture of collecting from rare plants to martyrs’ relics. Finally, Rome was also a violent city and its justice rough-and-ready to downright brutal. As well as the trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of the teenage artist Artemesia Gentileschi, study will be made of the trials of the philosopher Giordano Bruno and of the natural philosopher Galileo conducted by the Roman Inquisition.

Related modules

Students taking this module must also take the second part in Semester 2.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight three-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. The Kinetic city: the meanings of movement
  2. The state of Rome and Rome as state - part 1
  3. The state of Rome and Rome as state - part 2
  4. Politics and power in the age of Pope Urban VIII
  5. St Philip Neri, St Ignatius Loyola and the politics of sanctity
  6. Sacred site and urban strategy
  7. Palaces and patrons: the politics of space and display
  8. Courtly manners: playing the palace


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries & Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative work, students will produce a text commentary.

The summative assessment will consist of two parts, to be submitted together:
a) Two text commentaries of 500-750 words; and
b) One 1,500-word essay.

The commentaries comprise 50% and the essay 50% of the overall mark for this module. Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries & Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark 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 work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

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

  • Pamela Jones, Barbara Wisch & Simon Ditchfield (eds.), A Companion to Early Modern Rome, 1492-1692 (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2019) - ebook
  • Helen Langdon, Caravaggio: a life (London: Pimlico, 1998).
  • Vaughan Hart & Peter Hick, Palladio’s Rome: a translation of Andrea Palladio’s two guidebooks to Rome (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006).

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.