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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

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

40 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Dr Sara Barker

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

Year running 2024/25

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 analytical skills in written work, using citations and footnotes correctly
7. Show proficiency in the use of primary sources to study early modern print history


Topics may include:
- The materiality of the early modern book
- Reading, literacy and libraries
- Printing as a business
- Print and social, political and religious change
- Censorship and control

Some sessions will be held in Brotherton Special Collections, depending on availability, and we will arrange visits to other local libraries as available

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Reading to prepare for seminars (120 hours); Further self-directed reading (66 hours); Preparing and researching 4,000-word essay, including formative elements (80 hours); Preparing and researching portfolio, including formative elements (80 hours); Reflection on feedback 6 hours.
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

- 500 word annotated essay plan in semester 1 week 8, for discussion in weeks 9-10 in a 15 minute one-on-one meeting
- weekly seminar
- office hours and tutorials

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Portfolio1x1500 word literature review; 1x1500 word analysis of an early modern printed item; 1x5 minute presentation (+ powerpoint and/or handout & 750 word script)50.00
Essay4,000 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

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: 29/04/2024 16:15:05


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