Western Civilization since 1500

This is an introduction to the development of Western culture, ideas, religion, and political organization from the Reformation to the 20th century. The course deconstructs the notion of Western civilization and shows how understandings of “the West” have changed over time. It covers the emergence of a modern Western worldview, European imperialism and the repositioning of Europe within the Western imagination, the collapse of absolutist regimes, the emancipation of women, the spread of Western democracy, extremist political movements of both the left and the right, and ends with the collapse of communism in 1989.


Required Texts
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (London and New York: PenguinClassics, 2008).

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2003).

Eric Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987).

Judith G. Coffin, Robert C. Stacey, Joshua Cole and Carol Symes, Western Civilizations: Their History and Culture, vol. 2 (Brief Third Edition) (W. W. Norton and Company, 2012).


Additional Readings

Dante, Paradiso (1321)

Petrarch, “Letter to Cicero” (1345)

Martin Luther, On the Freedom of a Christian (1520)

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

Diggers’ Manifesto (1649)

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1690)

Arthur Barlowe, Narrative of a Voyage to Roanoke (1684)

Galileo, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina” (1615)

Memoires on Julie de Lespinasse

Condorcet, “The Future Progress of the Human Mind” (1795)

Mozart, “Letter to Gottfried von Jacquin” (1787)

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776)

Giacomo Casanova, History of my Life (1797)

Declaration of the Rights of Man & Citizen (1789)

Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” (1792)

Frederick Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1844)

Chartist petition (1848)

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848)

Frederick Engels, “The Origin of the Family” (1884)

John Stuart Mill, “The Subjection of Women” (1869)

Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” (1899)

Edward Morel, “The Black Man’s Burden” (1903)

Heinrich von Treitschke, Politics (1899)

Ernest Edwin Williams, Made in Germany (1896)

Paul Valery, Speeches (1922)

Ernst von Salomon, The Outlaws (1930)

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times (1936)

John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919)

Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948)

Winston Churchill, Iron Curtain Speech (1946)

Stalin, Interview to Pravda (1946)

Sukarno at the Bandung conference (1955)

Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” (1991)




The Medieval Worldview

The Italian Renaissance

The Lutheran Reformation

The English Reformation

The English Civil War

Class conflict in Early Modern England

Gender in Early Modern England

The Glorious Revolution

European expansion

The Scientific Revolution

Religion and Revolution

The Public Sphere

Enlightenment Civilization

Old Regime France

The French Revolution

Rights for Women

Industrial revolution

New political ideologies

Socialism and Communism

Communism and Gender Equality

Liberalism and Gender Equality

Imperialism: Australia & the Philippines

Imperialism: Africa

Nations and Nationalism


World War One

The Soldier’s Experience




World War II and the Holocaust

A New World Order

The Cold War

Anti-colonialism and civil rights movements

The victory of Liberal democracy



In-class exam on the Middle Ages through to Early Modern England.

Essay One: During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, thinking rationally about society inevitably lead to equal rights for all people. Discuss.

Essay Two: To what extent did the horrors of imperialism and the First World War shake Europeans’ faith in Western Civilization?

Take-home exam on Francis Fukuyama’s interpretation of twentieth century history.


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