2019 HIST 388 / HIST 395 Early Modern England

Dr. Jessica Otis
Class: Sandbridge Hall 107, MW 10:30-11:45
Office Hours: Research 463, M 1-2:30pm & by appointment

Course Description:

At the turn of the sixteenth century, England was a tiny island kingdom just emerging from the wreckage of a decades-long civil war. Over the next two centuries, its people struggled to survive through rebellions and dynastic drama, religious uncertainty and massacres, plagues and famines, continent-wide wars and seaborne invasions. This course will examine the political, economic, religious, cultural, and social transformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England with a particular emphasis on how its people attempted to understand and thrive in an uncertain world. In doing so, they could never have imagined they were laying the foundations for a British Empire on which the sun never set and whose American colonies gave birth to the nation we live in today.

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.

Privacy and Safety:

Students must use their MasonLive email account to receive important University information, including communications related to this class.

Because many 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.

Required Course Books and Expenses:

  • Alec Ryrie, Age of Reformation, 2nd Edition (AR)
  • John Spurr, The Post-Reformation (JS)
  • Robert Tittler and Judith M. Richards, The Reign of Mary I, 3rd Edition
  • J. Kesselring, The Trial of Charles I

Note: Copies of AR and JS will be placed on reserve at Fenwick Library

Additional readings, as well as detailed instructions for assignments and projects, will be posted on the course website. As many of these readings and assignments are web-based, you should have a device capable of connecting to the internet that you can bring to class. On occasions, a laptop (rather than a tablet, e-reader, smartphone, or other device) may be necessary to run specific websites or software.

Requirements and Grading:

Grades for the course will be based upon the following:

  • Course participation: 20%
  • Weekly writing assignments: 15%
  • The Reign of Mary I paper: 20%
  • Wikipedia editing assignment: 20%
  • Final exam: 25%

Late work will be accepted up to 7 days after the due date, but will cost 1/3 of a letter grade per day. Students may also receive no-cost extensions for family emergencies and serious illness provided they notify me by email in a timely manner (i.e. before the due date.)

Course Participation:

Students will be able to earn course participation points by attending and actively participating in regularly scheduled class meetings and activities. A larger number of participation points will be allocated to the class meeting where we 1) hold an encode-a-thon for the Elizabethan Court Day By Day project and 2) have a formal class debate on The Trial of Charles I, as these will require more effort than regular class meetings.

Students will also earn course participation points for the official course field trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library in downtown DC on Friday, March 29th. Please plan to arrive by 10:45 so that you have time to check in through security before things get started promptly at 11am.  We’ll be done by 12:30pm.

In addition, students can also earn course participation points for a variety of optional activities outside regular class meetings, including but not limited to:

  • watch and write an extra course blog post reviewing Mary Queen of Scots (movie set for online viewing/Blu-Ray release in late February)
  • additional hours of the Elizabethan Court Day By Day encode-a-thon on 3/25/19
  • attending and writing an extra course blog post on the Aquila Theatre performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 3/31/19 (students can get free tickets)
  • watch and write an extra course blog post reviewing The Favourite (this is set in the reign of Queen Anne; please wait to watch/review until we at least reach the Restoration)
  • other course-related educational opportunities, as they arise throughout the semester
  • attending office hours

Weekly Writing Assignments:

Students will have weekly short writing assignments (250-500 words), the details of which will be posted to Blackboard. Some assignments will involve posting to the course blog as well as leaving comments on your classmates’ posts. These assignments will usually be graded based on completion, but several randomly-chosen assignments will be graded on content. 

The Reign of Mary I Paper:

Students will write a long paper (1500-2100 words) based on The Reign of Mary I. Papers are due by the beginning of class on Monday, Mar. 4.

While you should be able to write your paper solely based on the assigned book, if you want you may also reference your class notes and other course readings. For this assignment, no outside research is allowed. All evidence must be properly cited. The GMU Libraries have resources, including an introduction to the Zotero citation management software, that will help you with citation formatting.

Papers should be word-processed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman with 1″ margins and include word counts in your header. Your paper must be submitted in hard copy and stapled together.

Papers will be graded on the strength of your arguments, the skill with which you deploy evidence from your source(s), and the quality of your writing. If you have any questions about what this means in practice, please talk to me in office hours and I would be happy to help you.

Wikipedia Editing Assignment:

Students will conduct a multi-stage Wikipedia editing project over the course of the second half of the semester. These stages will include:

  • identifying an article to edit, including examining the talk page and edit history of the article and analyzing the current state of the citations and evidence deployed in the article
  • creating a targeted plan of research and edits for the article
  • conducting article edits
  • monitoring Wikipedians response to article edits

Final Exam:

The take-home final exam will consist of multiple essay questions (2500-3000 words, total) and will draw upon the same analysis and writing skills as the papers. It will be due by the end of the University-scheduled exam period, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 from 10:30-1:15pm.

Note: this is one of the earliest exam periods. Please plan accordingly.

The final exam will be “open notes, open library.” In other words, you may consult your personal class notes while taking your final exam. You may also consult your assigned course readings and, while you should not need to conduct additional research, you may conduct outside research if you cannot find something in your notes/course readings. Regardless of whether you are consulting your course readings or outside research, all evidence must be properly cited. No collaboration with other students/tutors/etc. is allowed.

As with the Reign of Mary I paper, your final exam should be word-processed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman with 1″ margins and include word counts in your header. Your exam must be submitted in hard copy and stapled together. The essays in your final exam will be graded on the strength of your arguments, the skill with which you deploy evidence from primary sources, and the quality of your writing.

Tentative Class Schedule, Subject To Change Based on Snow Days:

Week One: Preliminaries

Jan. 23:

Week Two: Late Medieval England and Henry VII, 1485-1509

Jan. 28, 30:

Week Three: Young Henry VIII, 1509-1525

Feb. 4, 6:

Week Four: Henry VIII and the Reformation, 1525-1547

Feb. 11, 13:

Week Five: Edward VI, 1547-53

Feb. 18, 20:

  • AR, Chpt. 6
  • Begin Robert Tittler and Judith M. Richards, The Reign of Mary I, 3rd Edition

Week Six: Mary and Philip, 1553-8

Feb. 25, 27:

  • AR, Chpt. 7
  • Finish Robert Tittler and Judith M. Richards, The Reign of Mary I, 3rd Edition

Week Seven: The Elizabethan Settlement, 1558-1585

Mar. 4, 6:

AR, Chpts. 8 & 9

Spring Break: March 11-17th

Week Eight: Elizabeth’s Later Years, 1585-1603

Mar. 18, 20:

Week Nine: Legacy of the Tudors

Mar. 25, 27:

  • AR, Epilogue
  • JS, Chpts. 1 & 9
  • Edward Topsell, Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, 1607 (EEBO, pick two entries)
  • OPTIONAL: A Tudor Feast at Christmas (YouTube video)

NOTE: March 25th is the Elizabethan Court Day By Day Encode-a-thon. Be sure to bring your laptop to class, if you have one. Students without a personal laptop can check out a laptop from Fenwick Library.

Week Ten: James VI/I, 1603-1625

Apr. 1, 4:

Week Eleven: Charles I, 1625-1649

Apr. 8, 10:

Week Twelve: Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642-1660

Apr. 15, 17:

NOTE: The class debate on The Trial of Charles I is tentatively scheduled for April 17th.

Week Thirteen: Restoration of Charles II, 1660-1685

Apr. 22, 24:

Week Fourteen: The End of the Stuarts, 1685-1714

Apr. 29, May 1:

Week Fifteen: Legacy of the Stuarts

May 6:

  • JS, Chpt. 12 & Conclusion


Final exam: Wednesday, 5/8 10:30am-1:15pm