European Social History, 1789-1938                       

Social history is a catch-all term, encompassing topics as diverse as gender roles, social classes, technological change, demography, and cultural practices. This course examines European social history from the eighteenth century up to, but not including, the Second World War. It presupposes a general knowledge of political history, and focusing instead on European experiences in everyday life.

Grading system

Essay on a novel 20%         Research paper 30%            Midterm 20%        Final 20%               Discussion 10%

The Midterm and Final exam are both take-home. You will get a choice of three questions, and have five pages to answer one of the three. Questions will focus on the course readings. The final exam is not cumulative, it is basically a second midterm.

The essay on a novel (5 pages) is due the Friday of the week listed. This assignment has two goals. First, students are exposed to some outstanding works of fiction, which contributes all-around to a liberal arts education. However, this assignment is also designed to teach students how to use a work of fiction as a historical document. Your paper, therefore, should show how the novel shows us something about the mentality of the society it describes. This is not an exercise in literary criticism! Your paper should not analyze plot or characters, except insofar as these illustrate social history. Instead, focus on how the author portrays class or nationality, technological change, social attitudes, etc. 

The research paper (12 pages) may be on any topic the student selects, subject to the instructor’s approval. The paper must have at least eight sources, at least two of which must be primary sources.  Students will select a theoretical question, summarize the theoretical literature on that question, and then present and interpret primary source evidence in light of the theoretical literature. A list of suggested topics will be given out in week 3. 


Week 1   The Old Regime

W            Intro to course
F              The old regime: political rights in a warrior state. King-Nobility-Peasants; Clergy and Townspeople.


Week 2                  

M            Aristocratic culture: hierarchy and attempts to rationalize it.
W            Social mobility as promise and threat; elite responses: sumptuary laws
F              Serfdom and the economic transformations that undermined it

Le Roy Ladurie Saint Simon and the Court of Louis XIV “Hierarchy and Rank” 23-61 (38 pages)
Huges Russia in the Age of Peter the Great “The Petrine Court” 248-297 (49 pages)
Take the online “Guided tour of women’s fashion”
and the “Guided tour of men’s fashion”   

Novel     de Lados Dangerous Liasons


Week 3 The early modern Family

M            Marriage as a legal status. Female honor, male honor
W            Sexuality outside the family: Prostitution
F              The Enlightenment, and the Church’s steady decline

Rebecca Spang. The Invention of the Restaurant, “Hiding in Restaurants” 207-233 (26 pages)
Lawrence Stone. Road to Divorce “Desertion, Elopement, and Wife-sale,” “Private Separation,”141-182. “Parliamentary Divorce,” 301-346 (86 pages).

Novel     Jane Austin Pride and Prejudice


Week 4   The French Revolution

M            The social basis of enlightenment nationalism: printing presses and the middle class
W            The Nation in Arms: new sacralities, festivals of unity, anti-aristocratic feelings
F              Feminist responses to “National Brotherhood”: Gouges, Wollstonecraft.

Lynn Hunt The Family Romance of the French Revolution. Chapters 2-4. 17-123 (106 pages)
See also:
Web Museum, Jaques-Louis David
and “Costumes of the French Revolution”

Novel     Stendhal The Red and the Black


Week 5   Nationalism and its impact in conservative societies

M            National responses to the French Revolution in occupied Europe.
W            Reaction: Royal families and “Official Nationalism”
F              Enlightenment, Romanticism. German and west-Slavic nationalism

Anderson: Imagined Communities, “The Origins of National Consciousness,” 37-46.
Levinger Enlightened Nationalism “A Nation of Aristocrats,” “A nation of Romantics,” 71-125

Novel:    Mickiewicz Pan Tadeusz


Week 6   Industrial Revolution

M            Traditional artisans and mechanization
W            The politics and ideology of the “working class”
F              Technological progress: Steam, Railways

E.P. Thompson The Making of the English Working Class, “Standards and Experiences.” 347-384
Joan Wallach Scott, The Glassworkers of Carmaux (first half of book)

Novel: Charles Dickens: David Copperfield, Hard Times or Victor Hugo Les Miserables


Week 7   East European Responses to West European Progress

M            Aristocratic liberalism in Hungary and Russia: the “intelligentsia”
W            East European nobles and the end of Serfdom.
F              The fear of bureaucracy, the promise of the state Midterm: One week to do a take-home essay

Janos The Politics of Backwardness in Hungary, “The Impulse to Reform,” part of “State and Society,” 35-118.

 Novel: Mór Jókai Strange Marriage, Turgenev Fathers and Sons


Week 8 Urbanization

M            The spread of the cash economy, decline of the rural order
W            Railways: factories and the village
F              Expanding cities: technologies of urbanization Midterm due!

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. The Railway Journey.
Evans Death in
Hamburg “The Urban Environment”109-179; “Fear and Panic” 346-372                                      

[no novel this week, write the exam instead]


Week 9   Local Politics: new actors  

M            New social types: the clerk, the shop assistant
W            Dissecting the middle class 
F              Nobles, officials, bourgeois: competing elites

Philip Nord Paris Shopkeepers and the Politics of Resentment “Grands Magasins,” “Haussmanization” (2 chapters)

Novel     Émile Zola The Ladies’ Paradise, Dostoyevski Crime and Punishment


Week 10  Sexuality and moral Panic

M            New urban types: women in public.
W            Moral Panic: controlling female sexuality, prostitution
F              Overseas empire at home: changing consumption, colonial views of non-whites

Judith Walkowitz City of Dreadful Delight 41-120 (79 pages)
McClintock Imperial Leather 75-130, 207-230 (53 pages)
Pictures of Victorian women:

Novel     Tolstoy Anna Karenina, Lawrence Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Balzac A Harlot High and Low


Week 11  Demotic politics

M            Anti-Semitism as product of nationalism and social upheaval
W            Socialist intellectual culture vs. working-class culture
F              The Social Democratic Parties vs. “the mob”

Laura Engelstein The Keys to Happiness, “End of Innocence, Sex and the Anti-Semite” 254-332 (78 pages).

Novel     Cherneshevsky What is to be Done?


Week 12   Militarism and War

M            Manliness: military culture, dueling in Germany
W            The Front experience: troops vs. generals
F              Home fronts and women.

 Ekstein Rites of Spring 90-191 (101 pages)
See also “Art of the First World War”   
See also  “Photos of the Great War”      

Novels      Jaroslav Hašek The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik, Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front
                Roth The Radetzsky March



Week 13  Totalitarian Modernization

M            The Soviet Union: Civil War, War, NEP, collectivization
W            Ideology, terror, secret police, the show trial.
F              “Shirt movements” in western Europe.

Shiela Fitzpatrik. Stalin’s Peasants “Collectivization,” “Culture,” “Malice” 48-79, 204-261 (84 pages)

 Novel:    Sholokhov And Quiet Flows the Don, Boris Pasternak Dr. Zhivago


Week 14  Militarization and the coming deluge             

M            “The Front Experience” as political claim
W            Weimar decadence, the Fascist woman
F              The end of civilization?

Theweleit Male Fantasies, vol. 1. “Men and Women” 3-50


Additional Reading

Philippe Perrot, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie
Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Colony and Metropole in the English Imagination
Dror Wahrman Imagining the Middle Class
Michael Miller, The Bon Marché: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store
Sewell Structure and Mobility
Bradley Muzhik and Muscovite
Janos Politics of Backwardness
Arno Mayer The Persistence of the Old Regime
Peter Gay The Cultivation of Hatred
George Mosse Nationalism and Sexuality
Peter Gay Schnitzler’s Century
Peter Gay The Education of the Senses
Michael Mason The Making of Victorian Sexuality
Laurie Bernstein Sonia’s Daughters: Prostitutes and their Regulation in Imperial
Eric Hobsbawm Workers