Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2721: The Court: Art and Power in Early Modern Europe

Department: History

HIST2721: The Court: Art and Power in Early Modern Europe

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to a comparative history of European courts from c.1500 to c.1715.
  • To introduce students to a variety of historical approaches, including art history, architectural history, history of collecting, and music history.
  • To introduce students to some key themes of early modern social and cultural history.


  • The content will include the following themes to be covered in lectures and/or in seminars
  • The court was the focus of political, social and cultural authority in much of early modern Europe. It had different identities and functions for rulers, their elites, their states and, more broadly, for international audiences. This module will examine the nature of early-modern courts through a variety of examples which may include from the Burgundian court to Papal Rome, encompassing also the English court, the Habsburg courts at Madrid, Vienna and Brussels, and Louis XIV's Versailles, with a thematic and comparative focus. For the formative essay, students examine issues such as definitions of the court, the roles of favourites, ideas of court corruption, and the attractions of the court to elites. For the assessed essay students examine court culture in its different forms. Particular attention through the year will be given to the mechanisms of art patronage, the use of art by rulers and other elites to construct justifications for the legitimization of authority, and the roles of artists, patrons and scholars in the formulation of ideological programmes within court contexts. Students will be encouraged to think about different types of art, from the visual arts to palace architecture, music and theatre, which the coursework components will allow students to incorporate into their assessed work.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain: Knowledge and understanding of aspects of early modern European court history.
  • Understanding of different approaches for examining aspects of early modern court history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Building on and developing skills gained at Level 1
  • Deepening and extending historical understanding through focused, concentrated modules
  • Developing precision, depth of understanding, and conceptual awareness.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be by lectures and seminars.
  • The lectures will indicate to the students the major historical and historiographical issues and seminars will give them the chance to focus on issues arising from the lectures.
  • Summative assessment will be by one essay of 3,000 words and another assignment or assignments of 1,000 words total.
  • This will enable the students to examine particular areas in detail within the module's range of study in greater detail, reflecting the particular nature of the secondary material and teaching resources available for art and cultural history.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Term 1 1 hour 16
Seminars 7 Term 1 1 hour 7
Interactive question and answer session on DUO 2 Term 1 1 hour 2
Preparation and Reading 175
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1,000 words total, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the 1,000 word summative assignment and from work done during and in preparation for seminars.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University