Spring 2019 - HIST 439 D100

Catholicism in Early Modern Europe (4)

Class Number: 3947

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 8, 2019: Thu, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Hilmar Pabel
    1 778 782-5816
    Office: AQ 6230
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including nine units of lower division history and one of HIST 220, 223, 288, or 320.



An examination of the complex history of Catholicism in Europe in the period 1500-1789. By elucidating the diversity within and among institutions and religious experiences, it will challenge the traditional assumption that Catholicism constituted a religious monolith impervious to historical change. Subjects for particular focus may include historiographical approaches to Catholicism, the papacy, the Society of Jesus, popular religion, the role of art.


What happened to and within Catholicism once the Protestant Reformation took place in the sixteenth century?   Historians once dismissed the history of Catholicism as purely reactionary to Protestantism.  They called it the Counter-Reformation.  More recently, historians have acknowledged that the religious, intellectual, social, and cultural history of Catholicism is as fascinating as that of European Protestantism.  They have proposed alternatives to the term Counter-Reformation to capture the rich variety of the history of Catholicism in early modern Europe (1500-1789).

Our seminar will explore the amazing diversity of that history as we learn about the people and institutions that shaped Catholicism.  We shall discover that the Catholic Church was home to innovation and differences of opinion and practices, the exact opposite of an unchanging monolith.  Our study will culminate in an investigation and evaluation of the categories for describing the history of Catholicism in early modern Europe. The course does not assume or require any religious knowledge or affiliation

Prerequisites:  45 credit hours, including 9 hours of lower division History credit, plus one of Hist. 220 / Hist. 288 / Hist. 223 / Hist. 320 or permission of the instructor.  Students who do not have a course prerequisite may apply for permission to enroll in a personal interview with the instructor. 



The course requirements of History 439 will help you achieve the educational goals of undergraduate courses in the Department of History.  In particular, by the end of the course you will be able

  •   to identify the principal historical developments within Catholicism in the early modern period
  •   to analyze and interpret scholarship on the history of Catholicism at an advanced level 
  •   to propose a solution to the competing names for the history of Catholicism  


  • Participation 10%
  • Leading Class Discussion 10%
  • Midterm Test (14 February) 20%
  • First Essay (1500 words, due 25 February) 20%
  • Annotated Bibliography (due 11 March) 10%
  • Second Essay (2000-2500 words, due 4 April) 30%
  • Dates are tentative



Robert Bireley, The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700.

Marc Forster, Catholic Germany from the Reformation to the Enlightenment.

John W. O’Malley, Trent and All That:  Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era.

Craig E. Harline, A Bishop’s Tale:  Mathias Hovius among his Flock in Seventeenth-Century Flanders

Registrar Notes:

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Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html