This course surveys the history of Central Europe during the early modern period. It focuses primarily on the Habsburg Monarchy, although Germany and Poland will also figure prominently. The course will proceed chronologically, with different topics – including religious conflict, art and architecture, and dynastic propaganda – being addressed each week.
The history of the Habsburg Monarchy cannot be told without a consideration of the dynasty that gave it its name. Ruling over various parts of Central Europe for the better part of a millennium, the Habsburgs left an indelible stamp on this region. This course will study the dynasty closely, examining both its most celebrated and most maligned members. Several general themes will frame this portrait of the ruling house. First, the course will examine the relationship between state and society in Central Europe, examining theories of “confessionalization” and “enlightened absolutism.” Second, it will look at the great diversity of the Monarchy’s lands and peoples, and the recurrent religious, social and cultural conflicts arising between them. In spite of these great differences, the Monarchy held together and weathered numerous crises. This suggests a third theme, namely, the sources of cohesion in the region. In particular, the course pays close attention to cultural life in Central Europe, including art, architecture and education.