351  Course Requirements



Johann Sommerville

Email: jsommerv@wisc.edu

Office: Mosse Humanities 4127;

Office Hours: Mondays at 12-1 and by appointment.

Phone: 608-263-1863

Mailbox: 4001 Mosse Humanities


The Course schedule gives an outline of this course's content, summaries of the lectures, additional relevant information, and links to other internet sites.

This is a three credit course. An honors credit is available. If you are registered for the wrong number of credits, please visit your MyUW site and follow the links to update your current course information.






honors students do the same things and also write a term paper (due 5/3 in class.)

Your honors credit term paper should be double-spaced and about 5-6 pages in length; in addition to the 5-6 pages of text, the paper should also include a bibliography, and references to things you have read, giving your sources, and it should show familiarity with at least two books or articles in addition to the course reading. See this guide on how to cite references in your paper.
The paper should be on either:
      (1) What was the impact of warfare on government and society in seventeenth century Europe?
or   (2) In what ways did the long reign of Louis XIV benefit the French people, and in what ways did it harm them?;
or   (3) Galileo is often seen as a martyr to the causes of truth, freedom, and scientific objectivity. Is that right, or was he in fact an obstinate and opinionated man whom the Catholic church was fully justified in prosecuting?;
or   (4) another topic, by arrangement.


Graduate students:

Do 2 term papers (12-15 pp. including notes and bibliography; due 3/27 and 5/3; worth 50% each.) Topics by arrangement.


How much are the exams (etc.) worth?

3 credit: each midterm 25%; final 50%.

3 credit Honors: 25% Honors paper; 37.5% final; 18.75% each midterm



For basic facts and themes, read the material and follow the links in the pages on this site, beginning with the Course schedule. For those who are interested, and for people writing term papers, there are additional readings here.

1. January 18-27: Introduction; climate, society, and economy

Listen to a lecture by Geoffrey Parker on Climate and Catastrophe in Seventeenth Century Europe; it lasts less than an hour, and introduces many key themes: click here.

A short article on the Little Ice Age, the Maunder Minimum, and linked themes: here.

Wolfgang Behringer, “Climatic Change and Witch-Hunting: the Impact of the Little Ice Age on Mentalities”: here (click on “Download PDF” to read in pdf format).

Emerson Thomas McMullen, “The origin of Descartes' mechanical philosophy”: on military change, and scientific and intellectual innovation: here.

Richard W. Unger, “Dutch Herring, Technology, and International Trade in the Seventeenth Century”: here.


2. January 30 – February 3: Economy, religion, and ideas

Norris Nash, “The European Economy of the Seventeenth Century” introduces major themes and debates: here.

A short article on the Reformation: here.

John Bossy on “The Counter-Reformation and the People of Catholic Europe”: here.

The Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555) (short): here.

An Introduction to Presbyterianism: here.

Optional Readings: those who want to find out more about the religious history of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation could explore the links here.

Piotr Wilczek, “Catholics and Heretics: Some Aspects of Religious Debates in the Old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth”: here.

Robert C. Allen. “Progress and Poverty in Early Modern Europe”: here.

Gary Fields, “City Systems, Urban History, and Economic Modernity”: here.


3. February 6-13: The Thirty Years' War (1618-48)

Jonathan Israel, “A Conflict of Empires: Spain and the Netherlands 1618-1648”: here.

J. V. Polišenský, “The Thirty Years’ War: here.

Henry Kamen, “The Economic and Social Consequences of the Thirty Years' War”: here.


A very short document on the destruction of Magdeburg in 1631: here.


Optional Readings:


David Parrott, “The Mantuan Succession, 1627-31: a Sovereignty Dispute in Early Modern Europe”: here.


Karin J. MacHardy, “The Rise of Absolutism and Noble Rebellion in Early Modern Habsburg Austria, 1570 to 1620”: here.


4. February 13-20: The Decline of Spain


Stanley G. Payne (an eminent emeritus professor of this university) on “The Seventeenth-Century Decline” of Spain: here.


A debate on the decline of Spain, between Jonathan Israel - here - and Henry Kamen - here (the article by Kamen that started the debate is listed below under “Optional Readings”).



Optional Readings:

Henry Kamen, “The Decline of Spain: A Historical Myth?”: here.


Charles Jago, “The ‘Crisis of the Aristocracy’ in Seventeenth-Century Castile”: here.


Henry IV of France (from the old and solid Cambridge Modern History): here.



5. February 20-24: France under Henry IV (1589-1610) and Louis XIII (1610-43)


Richelieu’s Army: a short book review - here - <> - and a response - here.


Brief extracts from Richelieu’s Political Testament: here.


J. Michael Hayden, “Continuity in the France of Henry IV and Louis XIII: French Foreign Policy 1598-1615”: here.


David Parker, “The social foundations of French absolutism”: here.  


6. February 27– March 3 (Midterm on March 1): The Dutch Republic to 1650


Charles H. Parker, “To the Attentive, Nonpartisan Reader: The Appeal to History and National Identity in the Religious Disputes of the Seventeenth-Century Netherlands”: here.   


Francis J. Bowman, Dutch Diplomacy and the Baltic Grain Trade, 1600-1660”: here.  


Extracts from the old and solid Cambridge Modern History on The Dutch Republic: here.


Extracts from the same book, on Frederick Henry (the Dutch leader from 1625 to 1647): here.  


7. March 6-10: England to the Civil War; Russia; Poland


Conrad Russell, “Monarchies, Wars, and Estates in England, France, and Spain, c. 1580 - c. 1640”: here.  


Johann P. Sommerville, “English and European Political Ideas in the Early Seventeenth Century: Revisionism and the Case of Absolutism”: here.  


James I on the Divine Right of Kings (short): here.


The Commons’ Protestation of 1621 (very short): here.


The Petition of Right of 1628 (short): here.


Oswald P. Backus III, “The Problem of Unity in the Polish-Lithuanian State”: here.  


Chester Dunning, “Who Was Tsar Dmitrii?”: here.  


Optional Readings:


Zbigniew Wójcik, “Russian Endeavors for the Polish Crown in the Seventeenth Century”: here.


Andrzej Wyrobisz, “Power and Towns in the Polish Gentry Commonwealth: The Polish-Lithuanian State in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”: here.


8. March 13-17: European Crises; a General Crisis?; the English Civil Wars (1642-6; 1648)


The English Levellers’ Agreement of the People (1647) (short): here.


Women’s Petition (England 1649) (very short): here.


The English Quaker Margaret Fell defends the right of women to speak in church: here.


H. R. Trevor-Roper, “The General Crisis of the 17th Century”: here.  

“Discussion of H. R. Trevor-Roper: "The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century": here.


Optional Readings:


Richard Bonney, “Cardinal Mazarin and the Great Nobility during the Fronde”: here.  


Michael Roberts, “Queen Christina and the General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century”: here.


Michael O. Gately, A. Lloyd Moote and John E. Wills, Jr., “Seventeenth-Century Peasant "Furies": Some Problems of Comparative History”: here.


SPRING BREAK: 03/18-03/26  


9. March 27-April 5: Louis XIV and France (1643-1715)


“The Government of Louis XIV” (extracts from the Cambridge Modern History): here.


Wallace K. Ferguson, “The Place of Jansenism in French History”: here.


Julian Dent, “An Aspect of the Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: The Collapse of the Financial Administration of the French Monarchy (1653-61)”: here.


The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 1685 (short): here.


Extracts form Bossuet on politics (short): here.


10. April 7-10: Louis XIV and Europe: Wars


Mark A. Thomson, “Louis XIV and William III, 1689-1697”: here.


Carl J. Ekberg, “From Dutch to European War: Louis XIV and Louvois Are Tested”: here.


“The foreign policy of Louis XIV 1661-1697” (extracts from the Cambridge Modern History): here.


11. April 12-17: Late Seventeenth-Century Europe (Midterm on April 14)


 F. L. Carsten, “The Great Elector and the Foundation of the Hohenzollern Despotism”: here.


“Peter the Great and his Pupils” (extracts from the Cambridge Modern History): here.


12. April 19: Late Seventeenth-Century Europe; Britain, the Glorious Revolution and the Revolution Settlement


“The Revolution and the Revolution Settlement: England 1687-1702” (extracts from the Cambridge Modern History): here.

The English Bill of Rights, 1689 (short): here.


The English Toleration Act, 1689 (short): here.



13. April 21-24: The Military Revolution; Political Ideas


Geoffrey Parker, “The ‘Military Revolution,’ 1560-1660 – a Myth?”, click here.


John A. Lynn, “Tactical Evolution in the French Army, 1560-1660”, here.


Extracts from Hobbes’ Leviathan: here.


Extracts from Locke’s Two Treatises of Government: here.


Edwin Curley, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”; discusses Hoobes, Spinoza, and Machiavelli: here.


Optional Reading:


John A. Lynn, “The Trace Italienne and the Growth of Armies: The French Case”: here.


Donald Pilgrim, “The Colbert-Seignelay Naval Reforms and the Beginnings of the War of the League of Augsburg”: here.



14. April 26–28: Science and Ideas; Galileo


An essay on the Galileo Affair by Paul Newall is in four reasonably short installments:

              I: II: III: IV; and Aftermath - V.


The Crime of Galileo: his Indictment and Abjuration, 1633 (short): click here.


Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, 1615: here.


Eric J. Aiton, “How Kepler discovered the Elliptical Orbit”:here.


15. May 1-3: Science and Ideas


Newton’s Optics (extracts; short): click here


I. Bernard Cohen, “Newton in the Light of Recent Scholarship”: here


Clive Holmes, “Women, Witnesses, and Witches”:here


See here for some additional optional readings covering the whole course or key themes, and useful in writing term papers.



A note on term papers and the Internet:

The term paper should cite at least two sources in addition to the course reading. You can find many sources here, and others are listed in the footnotes and endnotes of the course reading. A good link for buying books is here. Be careful about using sources from the Internet, as they are not always reliable. As a general rule, use printed, published sources (though it's fine to use them in pdf versions available on the Internet.)

A good guide on questions of style, grammar etc. is available at The Writer's Handbook.

Finally, be aware that you should be careful to give proper citations for things you take from the Internet or from printed books and articles; take a look these linked sites for information on plagiarism and academic integrity.