Western Civilization II: circa1500 through the Present
or "Back to the Modern"
(Offered in 2017-18)

Taught by Tony Boisvert

  • timespan circa 1500-present
  • significant primary source reading
  • major paper each quarter, including instruction in research methods

How did the world become modern? Little more than 500 years ago, the world's civilizations and cultures existed largely in isolation from each other (often ignorant of each other's existence), most people believed the sun orbited the earth, "media" could hardly be said to exist, and governments, large and small, were primarily monarchies and aristocracies. What happened?

In this course, we will examine how a series of revolutions in technology, global awareness, politics, science, economics, international relations, and philosophy brought us from that world to the one we live in today, with a specific focus on the role of European culture in shaping that reality. 

Topics Will Include: 

  • The Beginnings of Modernity (1348-1517)
  • The Reformation and Wars of Religion
  • The English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution
  • The Enlightenment and The French Revolution
  • The Age of Ideologies (Romanticism, industrialism, socialism, colonialism, nationalism)
  • The World Wars, Fascism, and the Holocaust
  • The Cold War and European Unification

Major Readings will include:

  • R. Descartes, "Discourse on Method."
  • T. Hobbes , selections from Leviathan
  • J. Locke, selections
  • Voltaire, selections from Candide
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, "A vindication of the rights of women"
  • Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto 
  • C. Dickens, selections from Hard Times
  • J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • B. Tuchman, selections from The Proud Tower and The Guns of August
  • E. M. Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
  • E. Wiesel, Night

Written Assignments:
There will be at least one major writing assignment per quarter.  In the third quarter, there will be a research paper.