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Readings in Early Modern Europe


About the Course:

This is a course that attempts to teach you how to become a great historian without any prerequisite other than being functionally literate and willing to learn.   I work on the principle that  a historian is not unlike a detective investigating a crime and the first step in investigating a crime is not to contaminate the crime scene.    In history, the crime scene is an original source, and therefore, one has to start with it, without being influenced by layers and layers of “interpretation.”

The original source that we will be studying this quarter is David Hume’s little book, Discourses Concerning Natural Religion, in which an undergraduate writes to a friend describing a conversation he witnessed between three philosophers on whether one could prove the existence of God simply by using one’s reason or whether one had to take it on faith.

What we do in this course is to discuss the evidence in this  book in class chapter by chapter, write a short essay on the result of each discussion as we go along, and in the process  learn how to evaluate evidence by writing clearly and precisely  about it.    For the take home final, we will write a  longer essay, on what the implications of this book are for the entire study of history because if you understand what Hume is saying, whether you agree with it or not, you will have a better idea of  what you are doing when you start spouting off about the “lessons” of history.

Recommended Preparation: Hist 9 and Writ 109HU


 HIST 129A or 129B or 129C or 129D or 129E or 129F or upper division standing 


View the course’s Canvas page or the instructor’s page for documents: Paul Sonnino   

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