The Modern West

Matthew N. Vosmeier

Winter 2017


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Course description and required texts:

This course, an MS LADR (former curriculum) and HS CCR (new curriculum) is a survey of the broad themes that characterized the history of the West, emphasizing the time since the Renaissance. Students will analyze primary sources, consider historical context and perspective, discuss their ideas with colleagues, and interpret the sources in light of broader themes of modern European and American history.

Required Texts:

1. Gavin Lewis, WCIV. Volume 2, Since 1300
2. Online Materials accessed through this web page
There is an online Study Guide for Primary Sources to print out.

The final course grade will be calculated from the following:

1. Two exams: A midterm (25%) and a final exam (25%). The exams will consist of identification terms and essays. Students are expected to take the exams on the days scheduled. In cases of necessity, requests for make-ups should be made before the day of the exam.

2. Two papers (each 20%). These papers will involve an analysis of primary sources. Late papers will be assessed a penalty.

3. Class participation (10%). Class participation includes collegial involvement in class discussions and completion of assignments. You may use a laptop or tablet in class to discuss the documents, but you should have notes indicating preparation for class. Please do not multitask or use phones for any purpose.

Topics and Reading Assignments:


Jan. 9: Introduction to the Course

Jan. 11: Reading Texts
E. D. Hirsch, Cultural Literacy (1987), 3-7, 10-14
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows (2011), 1-26.
Sarah McNair Vosmeier, "On Marginalia" (2016)

Renaissance and Reformation

Jan. 13: Remaking Europe. Lewis, 252-267
Petrus Paulus Vergerius, "Concerning Liberal Studies" (ca. 1404)
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1513).


Jan 16: Renaissance Humanism. Lewis, 286-304

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486).
Christine de Pisan, Book of the City of Ladies (1405)

Jan. 18: Writing History Papers

Jan. 20: European Exploration and Empire Building. Lewis, 268-285


Jan. 23: The Reformation. Lewis, 308-322
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1545).
The Council of Trent, Canons and Decrees (1546; 1547)

Jan. 25: Individualism and Community in Early Modern Society.

Jan. 27: The English Reformation; American Colonization. Lewis, 324-329.
John Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity" (1630).


The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Absolutism, Enlightenment, and Lockean Liberalism

Jan. 30: Absolutism. Lewis,331-335, 338-339.
Jacques Bossuet, On the Nature and Properties of Royal Authority (1678).
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651).

Feb. 1: The English Revolution and Its Consequences. Lewis, 339-345.
John Locke, Second Treatise on Government (1690).
Thomas Gordon, Cato's Letters, No. 33

Feb. 3: Writing Workshop.
Bring Complete Paper Drafts to class.


Feb. 6: The Scientific Revolution. Lewis, 354-363.
Isaac Newton, Principia (1687).
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

Feb. 8: The Enlightenment and Art. Lewis, 363-373
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, (1762).
Voltaire, The Philosophical Dictionary (1764).
First Paper due

The American Revolution.

Feb. 10: The American Revolution and the Early Republic. Lewis, 378-383
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence (1776).
Abigail Adams, "Remember the Ladies" Letter (1776).
James Madison, Federalist #10 (1787).


The French Revolution

Feb. 13: The French Revolution. Lewis, 383-395.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789).
Olympe de Gouges, Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791)

Feb. 15: Midterm Review

Feb. 17: Midterm Exam


The Nineteenth Century

Feb. 20: Conservative Reaction. Lewis, 396-404.
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution (1790).

Feb. 22: Romanticism; Lewis, 404-409
Madame de Staël, On Germany (1810).

Feb. 24: Liberalism. Lewis, 410-416.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859) and John Stuart Mill, "Utilitarianism" (1861).

(Winter Break begins at the close of class day, Friday, Feb. 24. Classes resume Monday, Mar. 6)


Mar. 6: Music of the Western World. Lewis, 373-374, 409-410, 530-531.

Mar. 8: Nationalism. Lewis, 416-419.
Joseph Mazzini, An Essay On the Duties of Man (1844-1858).

Mar. 10: American Individualism.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar" (1837)
Seneca Falls Convention, Declaration of Sentiments (1848)


Mar. 13: American Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War
Frederick Douglass, "The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro" (1852)
Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (1863)

Mar 15: Socialism. Lewis, 438-445.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto (1848).

Mar. 17: Late Nineteenth-Century Social Thought. Lewis, 445-447.
Andrew Carnegie, "The Gospel of Wealth" (1889).
Thomas Huxley, Evolution and Ethics (1894).


Imperialism, Racism, Statism

Mar. 20: Race and Racism in the Progressive Era.
Booker T. Washington, "The Atlanta Exposition Address" (1895).
W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903).

Mar. 22: The New Imperialism and World War I. Lewis, 454-467, 468-482.
World War I Poetry

Mar. 24: Writing Workshop.
Bring Complete Paper Drafts to class.


Mar. 27: The Russian Revolution. Lewis, 484-493
Second Paper Due

Mar. 29: The Interwar Years; Fascism and World War II. Lewis, 493-499, 500-511, 518-524
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
Benito Mussolini, "The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism" (1932)

American Society and the World after 1945

Mar. 31: The Cold War; Decolonization; the Third World. Lewis, 532-546.
Winston Chruchill, "Iron Curtain" Speech (1946), Lewis 538-539


Apr. 3: The Cold War and the Third World. Lewis, 570-573, 575-578

Apr. 5: Late Twentieth-Century Society. Lewis, 546-547, 548-555.
The Port Huron Statement (1962)
Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (1963)

The Contemporary World

Dec. 2: The End of the Postwar Era and the 1990s. Lewis, 580-588, 606-619
Tony Blair, "The Third Way" (1998)


Apr. 10: Contemporary Society
Reading TBA

Apr. 12: Global Society and Conflict. Lewis, 620-631.
Reading TBA

Apr. 14: The West Now. Conclusion and Review. Lewis, 631-636.
Reading TBA


Apr. 17-21 Final Exam Week