42.126.03     Western Civilization Since 1650   (Honors) 

Fall 2009    Time:  Tues-Thurs., 9:30-10:45      Room:  OSH G20 

Professor:  M. Hickey    Office:  OSH 130  x-4161  mhickey@bloomu.edu

Office hours:  T-Th, 2:00-3:15; Wed., 3:00-5:30

Navigation links for this syllabus

 Basic course information:

Explanations of graded course assignments:

Weekly Schedule    


Brief Introduction to the Course

This course is a survey (an overview) of Western Civilization since the mid-1600s, with a primary concentration on European history.    

Among the topics we will examine this semester:   

·         the development of the modern nation state

·         the development of science and its application to social thought

·         the development of capitalism and in particular of industrial capitalism 

·         the development of modern concepts of politics and government

·         the development of modern concepts of rights

·         conflicts over who defines rights and who "gets" them

·         the development of modern intellectual and social movements (e.g., Liberalism, Conservativism, Nationalism, Anarchism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism) 

·         methods by which modern states and other political actors mobilize and control (and destroy) mass populations 


There is a very heavy emphasis in this class on reading for analysis, on discussing what you have read, and on writing about what you have read. 


Course Objectives:


·         Improve your skills as an analytical reader and listener

·         Improve your communication skills, and in particular your writing skills

·         Develop skill contextualizing and analyzing historical documents

·         Gain a usable introductory knowledge of modern European history

·         Consider ways to apply historical methods to studying contemporary issues


Course Methods: 


·             Lectures and class discussions (attendance and participation required!)

·             Readings in course textbook, web-linked documents, and supplementary texts

·             Four brief papers that examine readings from a historical perspective 



Required Texts:  


The following books are required for this course (you can buy them at the University Store or on-line, but you must have them): 

Frank Kidner, et. al., Making Europe:  People, Politics, and Culture, Vol. 2:  Since 1550.  Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2009.     

Voltaire, Candide.  Norton Critical Edition.  New York:  Norton, 1991.   


Emile Zola, L’Assommoir.  Oxford World Classics Edition.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2009.   

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents.  Standard Edition.  New York:  Norton, 1989.   

Viktor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness:  A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941.    Modern Library Paperback Edition.   New York:  Modern Library, 1999. 

In addition, documents linked to the Weekly Schedule.


Grade Components and Grade Scale:

Your grade in this course is based upon: 

Course grade scale:  A = >92; A- = 91.9-90; B+ =89-88; B = 87.9-82; B- = 81.9-80; C+ = 79-78; C =77.9-72; C- = 71.9-70; D+ = 69-68; D = 67.9-60; E = <60


Be sure to read the following policy regarding this course:

I regret even having to say this, but here goes:  I will not tolerate plagiarism or cheating in any form.  You must read the discussion of quoting (etc) vs. plagiarism linked to this syllabus, in which I define the behavior that I will consider plagiarism/cheating.

If I determine that you have plagiarized or cheated on any assignment, I will strictly follow university guidelines by filing a formal complaint with BU’s Student Standards Board.  Students found to have cheated or plagiarized on any graded assignment will fail the course

On absences and late assignments

 I will consider absences "excused" only in cases of medical, family, or university/work-related events about which you have informed me in writing in advance, or in cases that are documented in writing by the university administration. 

*Your class participation grade will fall by 5 percent for every unexcused absence. 

*Your papers must be e-mailed to me (as Microsoft Word files) by 5 PM on the day indicated in the syllabus.  Do not consider your paper received until I send you a message saying that I have received and opened the file.   

*I will deduct 10 percent from the grade for every day (5 pm) that passes until you turn in the paper.  The only circumstance under which I will allow a paper to be late is if you have a valid medical excuse, etc. (see above). 


Graded Assignments:

Class participation (20 percent):

 The most basic component of participation is being present in class.  Therefore, I will deduct points from your participation grade for each unexcused absence.   When you come to class:

What do I mean by "in an informed manner"?   Your participation should indicate that you have read and thought about the course assignments. (No BS, ok?!) 

Your grade will be based upon the quality of your participation (not on how many times you spoke).  But again, unexcused absences will lower your grade.


Preparing for class discussion on the textbook:  Keep a reading journal:

Each week we will discuss reading assignments from Kidner, et. al, Making Europe.  I strongly suggest that you keep a reading journal on the textbook.   

You will find that each chapter is divided into subsections (generally, five per chapter).  After the subsection titles (which are in bold red type), there are pale green boxes that have red downward arrows followed by questions.  The text’s authors provide two questions per every subsection.  At the end of each chapter, in the Summary section (again, bold red type), there are two or three Review Questions. 

Your job in your readings journal is to answer the subsection and review questions.  That means that you will answer (on average) 13 questions for each chapter. 

When you take notes in the journal, your answers should be completely in your own words.  If you simply quote the text or do a bad paraphrase, you are undermining your own learning.  The point is to understand what you’ve read.  Explaining in your own words is the best way to do that.


Suggested format for the textbook reading journal:   

·         Keep a separate notebook (you may need several) for this journal.  (Because you will bring these to class, paper is better than a computer file)\

·         Make sure that your name is on the notebook (every semester people lose theirs!).

·         Give each chapter a chapter heading (example:  Ch. 17), and begin each chapter on a new page.

·         Write out each question (short hand is ok), and beneath that question, write your answer.

·         Your answers should be in your own words.

·         Don’t worry about spelling or grammar on this assignment—the point is to read, think, and write!

 Bring these journals to class each day, so that you can consult your notes during our discussions. 


Preparing for class discussion on primary source readings: keep a second journal

You will find several primary source documents linked to the syllabus’ Weekly Schedule.   We will be discussing these in class, and I strongly suggest that you also keep a journal on these primary sources. 

A primary source is any document from the past that was created during the time period under study.  So, the diary of a woman who lived during England's "Glorious Revolution" could be a primary source on life in England in the late 1600s.  Work rules posted at a factory in Paris in 1844 would be a primary source on life in France in the 1840s.  A photograph taken by a soldier during a battle in World War One would be a primary source on the experience of soldiers during that war.  A law issued by the German government in 1935 would be a primary source on the policies of Nazi Germany.  (You get the idea.)   

Your job in the primary source readings journal is to take notes on the documents linked to the Weekly Schedule. 

Suggested format for the primary source readings journal

·         Keep a separate notebook (you may need several) for this journal.  (Because you will bring these to class, paper is better than a computer file)

·         Make sure that your name is on the notebook (what if you leave it at Starbucks?).

·         Each week should have a heading (example:  Week III Galileo document) and begin on a new page.

·         For each document, write out answers to the questions listed below.

·         Write the question number, and then your answer.

·         Your answers should be in your own words, except for questions 5 and 7.

·         Don’t get too hung up on spelling or grammar here—focus on content.


For each document, you must answer the following questions:

  1. When, where and by whom was this document written?
  2. Who seems to have been the intended audience?
  3. What is most important about the document’s context (the background)?  If the context is not clear from the document’s text of the document, then look in your textbook to see what you can learn about the context (that time/place/person).
  4. What does the document say at its "surface level"?  In other words, what is the document’s most obvious meaning?
  5. What specific evidence in the document supports your interpretation of its "surface" meaning?  (Here you have permission to quote.)
  6. Beneath the surface level, what main point (or points) was the document’s author making?
  7. What specific evidence in the document supports your interpretation of its "deeper" meaning? (Here you have permission to quote.

ALSO, you have study questions (below) on our four major supplemental readings.  We will be discussing these readings in class, and you will be writing papers on them.  It would be  really useful if you used your journals to keep notes on these study questions!

You should bring these journals to class each day, too, so that you can consult your notes during our discussions. 


3 brief papers (15 percent each):

In addition to the textbook and documents, we will be reading and discussing four book-length primary sources.  These represent different types of historical source material. 

You will write 2-4 page papers on three of these readings.  You will find sets of study questions on each reading below.  For each paper, you will pick one of these questions and answer it in a 2-4 page essay that makes use of evidence from our reading assignments and that cites the evidence using endnotes (see linked directions).  You will e-mail me your papers as MS Word files using the format specified below.  

90 percent of the grade on these papers will be based upon the accuracy, clarity, and logic of your answers and your use of our assigned readings as evidence.   10 percent of the grade will be based on use of proper form and grammar.   

Mandatory paper format 

Final paper: (35 percent) 

Your final paper is on our fourth major source reading, Viktor Klemperer’s diary I Will Bear Witness

The format for the final paper is the same as that for the three brief papers.  The only differences are these:

·         Your final paper must be 4-6 pages, not counting endnotes.  In other words, it is longer than your previous papers.

·         I will not return your paper for revision if the form is incorrect or there are excessive errors.  Rather, I will simply deduct points from the grade.

As with your other papers, 90 percent of the grade will be based upon content (logic, clarity, use of source material, etc.) and 10 percent on adherence to form. 

The paper is due via e-mail by 5 PM on Weds., 16 December.


Paper assignments/study questions: 

On Voltaire, Candide: 

Be ready to refer to specific passages in Candide (pages 1-75 in the Norton Critical Edition) to answer these three questions.  Your answers must demonstrate that you have read the whole story. 

1.  Voltaire was an Enlightenment philosopher, and Candide reflects Enlightenment skepticism towards “received wisdom” (such as religion and superstition) and the Enlightenment insistence on clear, logical reasoning.  Explain at least three different episodes in Candide that provide satirical criticism of religion or various forms of seriously-flawed reasoning.

2. Voltaire’s book was first published in 1759, and he sets the story against the background of several real historical events.  Identify at least three of the actual historical events depicted in Candide and explain a) how Voltaire treats these events (does he view them satirically—how and why?); b) what we know about these events from other sources (the Kidner textbook and documents/materials in the Norton Critical Edition, pages 77-126).

3. Parts of Voltaire’s Candide are set in Europe, parts in America, and parts in the Ottoman Empire.  In the course of the story, Candide witnesses several different forms and styles of government.  What does Voltaire seem to be saying about the difference between good (enlightened) government and poor (unenlightened) government?  Explain at least three different episodes that support your generalizations.



On Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir:

Zola’s fiction reflected many ideas of his times.  Like many intellectuals of his time, he wanted to understand the complex factors that shape human behavior.  Zola wrote a series of twenty novels that followed the lives of one fictional family (the Rougon-Macquart family) through French history.  L'Assommoir was the seventh novel in this series.  Zola understood his "project" in these novels as a "natural history" of French society.  He hoped to describe life for people in various strata of French society during the reign of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

Zola had no simple "moral" message in mind in L'Assommoir.  Instead, he was trying to capture many aspects of human life--in particular the many different factors that shape human behavior.  Like many other thinkers of his time (Darwin, Spencer, etc), Zola was interested in the way heredity shapes individuals’ lives.  Like many social reformers of his time, he also was concerned with the effects that the social environment had on individual behavior.  Although he was not a Marxist, Zola also was interested in the way that social class relations shaped behavior.  And like many philosophers (Mill, Nietzsche, etc), he believed that free will had an important role in shaping human behavior.  But he also believed that people were always, to some extent, subject to fate.

So---here is your task: 

Write an essay that has two sections.

Part A:  Use the experiences of at least three characters in L'Assommoir to explain what Zola seems to have thought regarding the influence of any two of these factors on individuals’ lives and behaviors: 1) heredity; 2) social environment; 3) social class relations; 4) free will; 5) fate.  (80 percent of the paper.)

Part B:  Relate Zola’s thinking about one factors to the views of a specific modern European thinker we have encountered in our readings.  (20 percent of the paper.)

PAPER DUE MONDAY, 2 November by 9 AM


Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents. 

Sigmund Freud had developed most of his foundational ideas about human psychology (both individual and collective) before the First World War.  After the war, he was particularly concerned with explaining what it was about the human psyche that drove civilization to massive acts of barbaric violence.  His answer, contained in Civilization and its Discontents (1930), builds an argument about the linkages between human culture and human aggression.

In an essay that cites specific passages and explains these passages in your own words, explain Freud’s thesis in Civilization and its Discontents.  This means that you must explain: 

a) Freud’s view of the origins of civilization (why did “man” create the rules, norms, and taboos that form the foundations of civilization);

b) why, according to Freud, civilization leads to “discontentment”;

c) why, according to Freud, “man” vents this discontent through violent aggression.



Viktor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness.

Klemperer kept a diary of his daily life in Nazi Germany for the entire period from 1933 to 1945.  What we have read is the first volume, on the first eight years of Nazi rule.  This diary is one of the most detailed historical sources in the English language (it is translated) about the lives of educated and patriotic German Jews in this period.  You will pick one  (1) of the following questions and write an essay that uses specific passages in the diary as evidence.  Your answer must use evidence from at least 3 different years of the diary.

1.      Based upon this diary, what did Jews in Nazi Germany think Nazi rule would mean for them?  Did all of the Jews that Klemperer knew agree about this?  Did their views evolve over time?  How and why?


2.      When and in what ways did Klemperer and his Jewish family and acquaintances begin to experience racial (anti-Jewish) hostility from ordinary Germans?  Did that hostility intensify?  When, how, and why?


3.      How and when did the restrictions that the Nazi government placed upon Jews impact the Klemperers’ life.  Be certain to discuss specific policies put in place at specific times and how these shaped life for the Klemperers and for other Jews who they knew.


4.      Why didn’t Klemperer simply leave Germany?  Did his thinking about this question change over time?  If so, how?




Weekly schedule: 

This is a provisional schedule.  I may find it necessary to change the dates of some assignments during the semester, and I may at times run a bit ahead or behind the syllabus.


Week I:  Introduction to the course; The State in Early Modern Europe

(M=31 August) 



Week II :  The State in Early Modern Europe

(M=7 September)


Week III:  Science and the Enlightenment

(M=14 September)



Week IV:  Early Modern European Society

(M=21 September)


·         Kidner, Chapter 18

·         Discuss Voltaire


Week V:  The French Revolution

(M=28 September)

 Voltaire paper due by 5 PM on Friday



Week VI:  Post-Revolutionary Politics and Society, 1815-1847

(M=5 October)


·         Kidner, Chapter 20

·         Read Zola


Week VII:  The Industrial Revolution and Social Change

(M=12 October)



Week VIII:  The Revolutions of 1848

(M=19 October)



Week IX:  Mass Politics and Mass Society, 1850-1914  

(M=26 October)


 Zola paper dueNEXT MONDAY by 9 AM


Week X:  Imperialism, 1870-1914

(M=2 November)



Week XI:  World War One

(M= 9 November) 


*French soldiers using a trench periscope in


*French attack on German trenches:


*French and German dead at


*Russian mass grave: http://www.gwpda.org/photos/bin08/imag0704.jpg

*Ruins of Vaux: http://www.gwpda.org/photos/bin02/imag0169.jpg

*Ruins of St. Quentin: http://www.gwpda.org/photos/bin10/imag0964.jpg

*Poles searching through the ashes of their former home:


·         Read Freud


Week XII:  The Russian Revolution

(M =16 November) 



Week XIII:  Thanksgiving Recess

(M=23 November.  Thursday =Thanksgiving Day)

Begin Reading Klemperer!


Week XIV:  The failure of post-war stabilization in Europe (Fascism and Nazism)

(M=30 November) 


Freud Paper due by Friday 5 PM


Week XV:  Nazi Rule and World War Two

(M=7 December)




Week XVI:  Final exam due via email by 5 PM on Weds, 16 December.