Introduction to the Early Modern Period (1475-1660)

Key terms: humanism, self-fashioning, age of print, authorization, sprezzatura, poetry or poesy; government, common weal, body politic, divine right of kings, natural law, common law, tyranny, courtesy books

1. Why do we call this the Early Modern Period and not the Renaissance? Difference between seeing just the old reborn and the new developed (see p. 641-42)

2. Change in world view (use the sheet): important to track major changes in perspective. The painting "The Ambassadors" on the cover of this volume of the Longman is a model of what we are going to discuss for the next month: see for some links on its multiple perspectives.

3. Age of self-fashioning: beginning of conception of individualism, of social mobility, of asking what makes a man? (a woman? A king?) The concept of being stuck in your estate is fading and the possibility of making something totally different of yourself is arising. The rise of the City of London as a power in opposition to Westminster, the court.

4. Emphasis not as much on what other people or institutions (esp. the Church) tell you to believe as on the power of the intellect—Renaissance humanism (p. 393-94) in concert with Protestant Reformation

Tudor Dynasty



England and "Otherness"

Royal succession

Because Elizabeth was a professional virgin--always courting foreign marriages but never going through with one--her heir is a foreigner (a Scot descended from the widow of the King of France). This was a source of considerable anxiety to the entire country.

Perspectives on Government and Self-Government

One of key issues of Early Modern period. Pulling away from medieval concepts of estates and ‘auctoritee’ and questioning the expectation for blind authority to institutions. (Natural accompaniment to a system of humanist education that begins to emphasize questioning, dialogue, and understanding over rote memorization—see Ascham, p. 773, and Mulcaster, p. 775.) 

The chief subject is the nature and source of governing—who rules the individual? The self? The king? The law? God? Key question becomes “Do laws come from kings or kings from laws?”

a. Government

b. Self-Government

Same idea on a micro scale—how are humans governed? Concept of teaching courtesy—governance for princes, and by extension the rest of us. (Stems from the "Mirror for Magistrates" tradition we saw in Malory.)