2022 HIST 635 Early Modern England

Dr. Jessica Otis
Class Location & Time:  R 7:20-10pm, Petersen 2411
Office Hours: Whenever/wherever, including by Zoom; just send me an email or Slack message and we’ll figure out a time/place

Note on COVID-19:

As your instructor, my first responsibility is to provide you a safe environment in which to learn. If you experience pandemic-related (or other) disruptions to your ability to participate in this course, please also discuss them with me regardless of what point in the semester they arise. As the last two years have shown, we are in an ever-evolving crisis and I do not assume your situation in October or January will be the same as your situation in March or May.

Course Description:

“No man is an island,” the English poet John Donne wrote in 1624. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries England was not an island either; instead it was one part of large island combined with a series of smaller islands, all surrounded by waters that functioned as much as a superhighway as a moat. The people of early modern England migrated and immigrated, went to war and went to sea, traded abroad and traveled abroad. This reading course will explore the history of early modern England and its relationship to the rest of the world through the lens of recent scholarship on immigration and war, gender and everyday life, religion and politics, and science and society.

Required Course Materials/Expenses:

  • All readings for this course will be made available as either a physical book on reserve at the GMU library or a digital resource that can be read from anywhere on campus (some readings may require using GMU VPN if you are off campus).
  • I assume you have a laptop or other device capable of connecting to the internet that you will be able to bring to class; if you anticipate any problems with gaining access to the technology necessary to participate in this course, please contact me ASAP and we’ll find a path forward for you.

Grading and Assignments:

  • Course Participation: 15%
  • 5 Book Reviews: 50% (10% each)
  • Book Review Comments: 15%
  • Final Project: 20%
Course Participation:

The course participation portion of your grade will be based on your consistent and active participation in classroom discussions (in a constructive manner), including 1) your demonstrated understanding of the theses, arguments, methods, and evidence in the weekly readings and 2) your analysis of writings both as individual works and in the larger context of the course and early modern history. Please feel free to ask me at any time throughout the semester how your course participation is going.

As you are graduate students, I assume your attendance at class every week. That said, life happens. If you need to miss class, please contact me and we will make an alternate plan for your participation that week.

While this is an in-person class, you should plan to participate virtually (via Zoom) any week you have symptoms of illness or believe you have been exposed to a contagious disease (COVID, flu, etc.). Per current GMU policy and CDC recommendations, all students must wear a mask that fully covers their mouth and nose (and does not contain an exhalation valve).

Book Reviews:

Over the course of the semester, you will write 5 book reviews of approximately 1000-1200 words each. This will be a mix of books assigned as reading each week and other books you are interested in that have been published in the last five years (2016-2021).

Depending on the final size of the class, I expect this to be a 4-to-1 or 3-to-2 ratio of assigned/free choice books.

You will be expected to (co)lead the class discussion on the days we cover your reviewed books.

Book reviews on assigned readings will be posted to the class blog and are due Mondays at 11:59pm.

Weekly Comments:

You will post weekly comments on your classmates’ book reviews. These comments should provide substantive feedback or amplification of the reviews and be 100-300 words in length.

Comments are due Wednesdays at 11:59pm.

Final Project:

You will have a choice of activities for your final project, which should be approximately 3,000-3,500 words. You may choose to write an historiographical essay, a Wikipedia article, an undergraduate lesson plan, an article prospectives, or some other alternative that you pitch and I accept as commensurate.

Final projects are due at the end of the University-assigned final exam period, which is Thursday, May 12 at 10:15pm.

Honor Code:

By putting your name on your assignments, you are acknowledging the integrity of your work. If you have any questions about academic integrity, please either consult with me or go to https://oai.gmu.edu/mason-honor-code/


If you have learning needs and have been evaluated or are in the process of being evaluated by Mason’s Disability Services (http://ds.gmu.edu), please let me know so that I may make certain you are receiving the support you need.

Should you require other accommodations during the semester, particularly if it involves obtaining access to the necessary technology to perform your coursework, please contact me as soon as you are aware of the issue.


Students must use their MasonLive email account to receive important University information, including communications related to this class. Please also use this email address to sign up for the class website.

Privacy and Safety:

Because some of this course’s activities will require you to have an internet presence, please contact me immediately if you have privacy concerns or experience online harassment doing class activities during the course of this semester. Aliases may be an appropriate solution and/or alternative activities may be substituted for required course activities, as necessary. While I believe that your education will benefit from your participation in the online digital history community, your privacy and security is a higher priority than any particular course activity.


My goal is to create a supportive learning environment for students with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. As such, I fully support the Mason Diversity Statement.

Mandatory Reporting:

As a faculty member, I am designated as a “Responsible Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of Mason’s confidential resources, such as Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) at 703-993-3686 or Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) at 703-993-2380. The 24-hour Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence Crisis Line for Mason is 703-380-1434.

You may also seek assistance from Mason’s Title IX Coordinator by calling 703-993-8730 or email titleix@gmu.edu.