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9-08-2015, 14:41


Those who study the past increasingly emphasize that the words we use shape our understanding, and that it is important to be aware of the assumptions that lie within them. For example, the term “early modern,” which grew out of the intellectual model that divided history into three eras – ancient, medieval, and modern – led scholars to emphasize what was new and downplay continuities with earlier periods. Similarly, defi ning Europe as a continent rather than simply the western part of Asia has meant that its history has often been explored in isolation from that of other areas. Newer perspectives on early modern Europe see its history as more connected with that of the rest of the world, and pay increased attention to continuities along with changes. Our knowledge of this era has widened dramatically over the past thirty years, as historians have focused on groups that had earlier not been part of the picture, such as women, peasants, children, and religious minorities. In their research, they rely in part on the printed materials that became steadily more numerous in this era as printing technology spread out from Germany, including books produced for the growing number of people who could read, and also booklets, pamphlets, and single-sheet broadsides. Historians also use manuscript sources, art, and material objects to broaden the range of information available, and apply methods of interpretation and analysis drawn from a range of scholarly fi elds. This book draws on the insights of recent scholarship to present a Europe in the early modern era that includes the Ottoman Empire and Russia, because they were important actors in the story. It connects Europe to the rest of the world, for this was the era in which that connection became a shaper of the world’s history. It examines structures and institutions that did not undergo reformations or revolutions, along with those that did. It introduces you to diverse sources, theories about their meaning, and methods of interpretation, and also asks you to think about ways in which understandings of the past have been and continue to be created. Together these features may enable you to develop your own opinion about the signifi cance of early modern Europe for our twenty-fi rst-century world.