Monday, February 18, 2008

Witches, plague, war and Hobbes

In a way the fall of Constantinople was not so much of a low note in the making of Europe. It basically emancipated this backwater from the east even if it suddenly had to stand up on its own facing the Islamic invaders and also lost touch with the trade routes into India and China. That is 1453, where History 5 started. The next issues were the opening up of the New World and the Reformation which, even though enough ugly stories go along with it, first and foremost exemplify the vigor of emerging Europe. In the fourth week however, History 5 plunges us without any restraint in to the depth of ugliness and the many faces it wore during the 16th and 17th century.

Part of this is the immediate result of the Reformation and the political and military consequences it took. War tore the emerging area apart. Most notably the Thirty Year's war, which killed off, up to 50% of the population in certain parts of the German lands, but not just there. Also in France, England the Netherlands and the rest of Europe war raged.

In addition to all this upheaval we have the prosecution of witches which rises to enormous heights in this era and fortunately also subsides by the end. Also there is plague, ever since the end of the Middle Ages, the black death continues to break out. Lectures 7 (Things Fall Apart: Persecution, Plague, and War) and 8 (Hobbes's World and the Emergence of Constitutional Government) of History 5 take us through these upheavals and make the connection to Hobbes's reaction in the form of a political theory asking for absolute power to the state. What is especially challenging is Professor Anderson's effort to explain the witch hunt; evaluate the various popular and scientific explanations and outline the beginning of an explanation of her own.

More History 5:
Europe and 1492,
The making of Europe in 1453,
From the Renaissance Until Today,
The genitals of Christ: Anne asks and then Anderson replies.

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