Disaster and Wonder in Europe 1450-1750

Subject HIST90030 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2011:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment: 10 hours per week: total time commitment 120 hours
Prerequisites: Admission to the honours or postgraduate diploma program in history or admission to a relevant masters program
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Dr Jenny Spinks


Subject Overview: Earthquakes, fires, floods, plagues, monsters, and comets: these often disastrous signs of a disordered natural world were viewed as dramatic and disruptive in pre-modern societies, just as they would be today. People struggled to predict their occurrence, to deal with their after-effects, and to argue for their possible meanings. This subject will explore the different ways that disasters and dramatic natural occurrences were understood in late medieval and early modern European societies. In particular, we will explore the impact of religious and political change on the interpretation of disasters and wonders. Topics to be explored will be diverse and may include the 1666 Great Fire of London, the meteor that landed on the Alsatian town of Ensisheim in 1492, and the waves of plague that periodically swept across Europe in this period. We will examine a range of sources that reported and debated such events, including letters, prints, paintings, drawings, chronicles, broadsheets, pamphlets and books, and also assess the various historiographical traditions that have dealt with such material. In particular, we will be concerned with the ways that a burgeoning print culture across Europe from c. 1450 escalated public interest and debate in disasters and wonders.

Students who complete this subject should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role that disasters and wonders played in the social, political, cultural and religious environment in western Europe c. 1450 - 1700
  • Engage critically with the various sources and historiographical traditions that concerning disasters and wonders in past societies
  • Demonstrate skills in research and analysis, as well as written and verbal communication, through written assignments and a class presentation
Assessment: A seminar presentation leading to a short written assignment of 1,500 words, 25% (to be submitted within one week of the presentation. Presentation dates to be agreed in week one). a research essay of 3,500 words, 75% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts: A reader will be available
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • show critical thinking and analysis through recommended reading, essay writing and classroom discussion
  • demonstrate research skills through competent use of the library and other information sources
  • demonstrate understanding of social, ethical and cultural contexts of knowledge
  • demonstrate writing skills through conducting a discussion and constructing an argument in clear prose.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History

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