Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Aspects of Seventeenth Century Europe

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century takes a comparative approach to the phenomenon of change in seventeenth-century Europe. It will endeavour to answer the question: To what extent, and in what ways, was crisis the major driving force behind the process of structural transformation of European States in the course of the seventeenth century? An attempt will be made to arrive at a working definition of crisis. This will be followed by a general survey of the social, economic, and political structures and the religious institutions and beliefs in early seventeenth-century Europe. Within this general framework, the following themes will be addressed: The genesis of the general-crisis thesis: a discussion of the views of the two proponents of the thesis - Eric Hobsbawm (for the social and economic crisis) and Hugh Trevor Roper (for the political crisis), subsequent interpretations, which elaborated or modified the original thesis; critics of the thesis; how the different European States reacted to the crisis; the outcome of the crisis: the end of the seventeenth century. The study-unit ends with a seminar on the applicability of the crisis thesis to Hospitaller Malta.

Louis XIV and France: Under the monarchy of Louis XIV two worlds, two distinct realities coexisted - Versailles and France. The world of the Sun King, of Lionne, Le Tellier, Louvois, Colbert and ‘that narrow circle of rich idlers’ was the world of the court at Versailles. The other France, the ‘true’ France, was represented by the soldiers and sailors who fought Louis's wars, the savants and the prosperous bourgeoisie, the administrators and diplomatists, the peasants and craftsmen. Away from the huge palace and its landscape gardening, millions of people lived the horrors of taxation, widespread economic depression, unjust privilege, religious intolerance and the notorious dragonnades. Louis had become a stranger to these people.

The study-unit will address both worlds through such issues as: the monarchy of Louis XIV; prosperity, poverty, and problems; diplomatic and military achievements; the intellectual and artistic flowering of France; Church-State relations; and the dark side of the grande siecle.

The study-unit will be conducted mainly through seminars; the approach will be document-based.


To acquire and be able to demonstrate an understanding of (a) the role Man plays in the historical process of continuous change; (b) the general state of Europe in its seventeenth-century state of development; and (c) how major conflicts transformed Western societies.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the time this study unit is completed successfully, the student should have acquired a clear understanding of (a) the ‘General Crisis’ theory round which the whole study is developed; and (b) the extent to which the structural changes that occurred in France and the rest of Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century may be attributed to Louis XIV and to Luois XIV alone. They would also have acquired knowledge of how literary and political texts and works of art (Machiavelli / Erasmus) can be used as historical evidence.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to acquire the ability to explore, analyse critically, and discern different and contrasting interpretations.

Reading List:

The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century – Basic Text
• Paul Hazard, The European Mind 1680-1715 (Penguin 1963; 1st edn: Paris 1935)

Louis XIV and France – Set Texts
• Madame de Sevigne: Selected Letters. Trans. Leonard Tancock. Penguin Classics, 1982.
• Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV. Trans. M.P. Pollack. London, Dent, 1926.
• V. Mallia-Milanes, Louis XIV and France. Macmillan 1986.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Victor Mallia Milanes

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.