Why study early modern Europe at the University of Chicago?
Our special resources include robust programs in Renaissance Studies, the Nicholson Center for British Studies, the Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, a world-class collection of early modern books and manuscripts in the Special Collections Research Center, and partnerships with the Newberry Library, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Folger Institute Consortium.
Faculty interests extend from the Iberian Peninsula to the Ottoman Empire, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from Europe to around the globe through trade networks, cultural exchange, and colonial activity. We feel that national boundaries and sub-historical divisions distort the historical picture. If you want to understand the Italian Renaissance, you need to understand England, Spain, and the Ottoman World. If you want to write a history of the Reformation, your narrative will be deeper and richer when it draws on a range of sources, from financial records, to the metal content of coins, to Shakespeare. We train young historians to cross borders, methods, and source bases and to ask new questions and solve them in innovative ways.
Why study early modern European history?
Europe between the Black Death and the French Revolution birthed many innovations which define the modern world: new concepts (progress, human rights, the scientific method, humanist education); new institutions (modern banking, Protestantism, constitutional monarchy, democratic revolution); and new disruptions (the printing press, large-scale use of gunpowder, European contact with the New World, and scientific discoveries which dethroned Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Galen). Examining the exponentially accelerating changes, good and bad, which shaped early modern Europe offers models to understand accelerating change in our own era, especially as we ask how Europe—which had lagged behind many other civilizations in technology, population, organization, and military strength—grew so quickly into a global power.
We often help students attend professional conferences, such as the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, the Renaissance Society of America, the German Studies Association, Frühe Neuzeit Interdisziplinär, the American Historical Association, the annual conference of the Spanish and Portuguese Historians, the Forum on European Expansion, and many others.