Explaining the Rise of Europe

Each of the four selections listed below attempts to explain the peculiar dynamism of European culture as it emerged onto the world scene in the early modern era; indeed, European commercial expansion and industrial capitalism, and the political, economic, and social forms underlying them came to define what is meant by "modern". The question is inherently comparative, since it assumes that European culture took a line of development significantly different from those followed by other major cultures in the world and thereby acquired powers and capabilities the other cultures could not create and ultimately sought to borrow from the West. Hence, any explanation comes down to identifying the salient features that distinguish European culture from others. Those features not only identify what is peculiar about Europe but also serve as markers for an explanation of their historical development.

You have just spent a term studying the emergence of Europe during the period covered by these sources and hence should be in a position to evaluate them critically, at least for what they say about the development of European culture. Choose one of them and write a 5-6 page (1200-1500 word) essay in which you identify the salient elements of the model of "the rise of Europe" that the author constructs by contrast with other cultures and then discuss how well the model matches the historical evidence you have encountered this term in the readings, lectures, and precept discussions. Do you agree with the relative importance the author attaches to the salient features, or would you draw a different balance, perhaps including elements the author has ignored?

Sources (all on reserve at Firestone)

John A. Hall, Powers and Liberties: The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West, Chapter 5 ("The Rise of Christian Europe")

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Chapter 1 ("The Rise of the Western World")

E.L. Jones, The European Miracle: Environments, Economies, and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia, Chapter 5 ("The market economy") and Chapter 6 ("The states system")

Ernest Gellner, Plough, Sword and Book: The Structure of Human History, Chapter 4 ("The Tension")

The essay is due by 3:00 PM, Tuesday, 12 January (Dean's Date), in your preceptor's box in the History Department Office, 129 Dickinson Hall.