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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3498 Early Modern Media: Printing and the People in Europe c.1500-c.1800

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Dr Sara Barker

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Gutenberg's development of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century is often seen to be one of the seismic changes in Western society. Over the early modern period, books went from being the preserve of the rich and elite institutions to items accessible to people at most levels of society. New genres emerged, and individual authors could achieve great fame - for some, it became possible to make a decent living by writing. Printed books and pamphlets became central for the exchange of ideas: print was crucial to the spread of the Reformation in the sixteenth century and to the emergence of new scientific ideas and practices in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At the same time, literacy rates grew, attitudes to education changed and more people became aware of and engaged with changing cultural and political ideas - what has been termed the 'transformation of the public sphere'.In this module, we will examine the impact of printing and book production on early modern Europe from a number of angles. We will look at the technology and business of printing, how books were produced and sold. We will examine the material culture of the book. We will look at the kinds of books and other printed matter that was produced, and the ways people received and used these items. We will think about the impact print had on early modern society and if there are useful parallels in contemporary society.


The objectives of this module are:
- To assess the impact of the development of printing on early modern European life.
- To explore contemporary reactions to the emergence of printing.
- To evaluate key historiographical and methodological developments in relation to the history of printing and the book.
- To critically analyse a range of primary sources, both written and visual, relating to these issues.
- To formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in relation to these issues, in written and verbal form.
- To further develop generic transferrable and subject specific skills.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate good awareness of how printing developed as a technology and as a business between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment
2. Demonstrate ability to think critically about the way books were produced, sold and used in early modern Europe
3. Demonstrate critical understanding of the impact this had on European society
4. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken when exploring this period
5. Show analytical and critical skills in oral presentations
6. Show understanding of and engagement with issues of design and formatting in poster presentation
7. Show analytical skills in written work, using citations and footnotes correctly
8. Show proficiency in the use of primary sources to study early modern print history


Likely topics of discussion will include:
- Books before printing
- The interplay between print, oral and manuscript cultures
- The technology of print
- The materiality of the book (including format, typography, illustrations etc)
- The business of print (including local, national and international book trades)
- Reading and literacy
- Book ownership and libraries
- Censorship and copyright
- Print's broader role in early modern Europe (e.g. the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, political uses of print, the emergence of news culture)
- The early modern book in the digital age

There will also be specific advice sessions on how to use catalogues, databases, library websites etc. to access source materials, and an advice session on poster design.

Depending on practical availability, there might be opportunities to visit (in person or virtually) relevant libraries and Special Collections. These cannot be guaranteed, and the format visits might vary year on year.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours352.00
Total Contact hours48.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Students will be directed in their seminar preparation each week. They will be introduced to key databases and resources to support their studies in the first seminar of the year.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Weekly seminars
Office hours and tutorials

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 word essay due by 12 noon Monday of Exam Week 2, semester 140.00
PresentationPoster presentation, as directed by tutor. Due semester 2, week 8.10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:08


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