READING STUDY QUESTIONS
The following questions are intended to help you focus on key themes and ideas in the readings. They may also be used as quiz questions, and will certainly be used as a basis for class discussion. I will add to this list on a regular basis and try to stay at least one week ahead. (Note: there will usually not be questions or quizzes on assignments from Cameron's book.)
||For February 18 & 20:
1. What assumptions did 15th century peasants have about their world? In particular, how did they understand TIME and SPACE?
2. What problems troubled them? How did they deal with those problems?
3. How did they understand their relationship to God and the spiritual world?
4. What role does the church play in their lives? How well is it meeting their needs and expectations?
5. What problems do historians face when trying to study these peasants? How do you evaluate Wunderli's (controversial) method of presenting the world of late medieval peasants?
||For February 27:
1. What is Steven Ozment's argument about the nature of the early modern family and marriage?
2. What are the most important qualities of Magdalena and Balthasar's relationship with each other? with their son?
3. In what ways is their marriage shaped by where they live (a city, as opposed a rural setting) and their social/economic place in society?
4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the sources that Ozment used in writing this book? What are the problems faced by historians when trying to study early modern marriage and family life?
illustration (left): the author, Professor Steven Ozment
||For March 5:
1. What is the most important quality of a successful ruler according to Machiavelli? What is a ruler's most dangerous vice?
2. In what ways do Machiavelli's argument and sources identify this as a text of the Renaissance?
3. In what ways is Machiavelli breaking with the past? In what ways is this a "modern" argument about governance?
illustration (left): portrait of Machiavelli
|For March 12:
1. According to Erasmus, what is wrong with the church?
2. What is his alternative vision of the Christian life?
3. Erasmus has a humanist. How does his writing reflect the values and style of Renaissance humanism?
4. Was Erasmus a threat to the church's role in society?
illustration (left): portrait of Erasmus
|For March 15:
1. What is new about Luther's ideas?
2. How does Luther feel about human nature?
3. What does 'freedom' mean to Luther?
4. Was Luther a threat to the church's role in society?
5. How do Luther's ideas compare to those of Erasmus?
illustration (left): woodcut of Martin Luther late in his career
|For March 17:
1. How do the the ideas of Zwingli, the Anabaptists, and Calvin differ from those of Luther?
2. What do their ideas have in common with Luther's?
3. Why were the Anabaptists considered threatening even to other Protestants?
illustration (left): Huldrych Zwingli, the reformer of Zurich
|For March 24:
1. What was Christine de Pizan's goal in writing this book?
2. What is her thesis?
3. What claims does she make for women generally?
4. Would you identify her work as 'feminist' (in whatever way you understand that modern concept)?
Also, identify one of the 'biographies' in this book that you find particularly interesting and be prepared to discuss what you found interesting about it.
|For March 29:
1. What are the sources of royal authority according to the first three sources?
2. What images does King James use to describe the relationship of kings to their subjects?
3. Are there limits to royal authority? Is disobedience ever possible or legitimate?
4. How do you evaluate these arguments? Which do you find the strongest? the weakest? Why?
illustration (left): King James VI of Scotland and I of England
|For April 14:
1. When Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Descartes and Locke sought truth, where did they seek it? What methods did they employ? How were they challenging previous ways of knowing?
2. Are traditional forms of religious authority, especially the Bible, incompatible with these ways of knowing and understanding? What roles do God and religion play in these writings?
3. What does Bacon mean by "Nature to be commanded must be obeyed."? Why is this an important concept?
4. Newton expresses his views in terms of laws and rules. What is the significance of that?
illustration (left): title page of Copernicus' book.
|For April 16:
1. How does Locke revise previous views of education? How do his revisions show the influence of the new scientific ways of thinking?
2. How does Locke revise previous views of the nature and purpose of government? How do his revisions show the influence of the new scientific ways of thinking? In particular, how is the notion of "majority rule" explained that reflects Newtonian physics?
3. What role does religion play in the new scientific and rational society?
illustration (left): John Locke
|Louis XIV and Absolutism includes a set of discussion questions on pp. 227-8.
For April 23:
Questions 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.
Also, think about the biases of the sources in chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 19-81). Are these sources reliable, at least in part? How should historians use first-hand accounts like these?
For April 26:
Questions 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.
illustration (left): Louis XIV in costume as The Sun King
|The discussion questions for today (May 17) will be distributed on a worksheet/take-home "quiz". In addition, think about the question posed in the paper assignment: Why did Joseph II ban productions of this play?
illustration (left): Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais