Spring 2016 - HIST 407 D100

Popular Culture in Great Britain and Europe (4)

Class Number: 4203

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 106.



This course will study culture in Great Britain and Europe since 1500. Themes may include the sixteenth century separation between popular and elite culture, Carnival, the witch craze, popular ballads, the institution of 'rational recreation' during the Industrial Revolution, the late Victorian Music Hall, the cultural emancipation of women, and the effects on working class culture of economic depression and world war.


HIST 407 students will participate in an ongoing redirection of thought in the humanities and social sciences: the “material turn,” which recognizes the powerful role of physical objects and artificial structures not merely in reflecting, but in shaping human experience and identity.

The study of material culture intersects with historical research in two mutually enriching ways. First, the history of objects: their production, use, and circulation. Second, history from objects: how do they illustrate, extend, deepen or challenge our document-based understandings of the past, and what new questions do they raise? Most of our meetings are going to revolve around paired sets of readings. The first item in each pair will outline a particular theoretical or methodological approach to the interpretation of material culture. The second item will be a recent piece of historical research which reflects the influence of that approach. Items in the first category will include the works of historians (Braudel, Burke, Nora, etc.) and of specialists in allied fields: archaeology, anthropology, semiotics, gender and religious studies, and Marxist and postcolonial theory, among others. Items in the second category will focus on early modern Europe, and particularly on the domestic routines and popular culture of the lower and middling ranks of society, whose lives are least well documented in written records. Objects highlighted in our readings (and in a few cases, hands-on study) will include pots, pans, pins, pens, ploughs, pennywhistles, pub signs, pennants, petticoats, plaids, prayer-books, poniards, porcelains . . . that is to graze the possibilities afforded by only one letter of the alphabet.

Students, then, will acquire a fresh grounding in the major themes of early modern European history, as these were registered in daily life and popular consciousness: industrialization, urbanization, state consolidation, religious change, the globalization of trade, the scientific and consumer revolutions, the emergence of the public sphere. Students will also acquire a versatile set of skills for interpreting the physical environment.


  • Attendance and participation 10%
  • Secondary source review (4-6 pp.) 15%
  • Oral presentation (object biography) 15%
  • Reading quizzes and in-class writing 20%
  • Museum of Anthropology report (4-6 pp.) 15%
  • Research proposal 5%
  • Research paper (10-15 pp.) 20%



Raffaella Sarti, Europe At Home: Family and Material Culture, 1500-1800, trans. A. Cameron (Yale UP 2004) 978-0300102598

All other readings will be made available online or put on reserve in the Bennett Library.

Registrar Notes:

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