EDUO 9678: The Making of the Modern Western World: The Renaissance to Pre-Industrial Revolution

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The Renaissance to the Pre-Industrial Revolution is a course designed for social studies teachers as well as for teachers seeking general professional development. This course covers the period often called the Formative Modernity, or Pre-Industrial Revolution, from approximately 1500 to 1800, when the institutions of the Western World were being formed.

The other course in the series, The Making of the Modern Western World, Part 2: The Industrial Revolution to the Vietnam War, EDUO 9679 covers the period of time from approximately 1800 to 2000.

There are two levels of depth available. For teachers seeking professional development, the Read and Reflect course (Option I) will suffice. Students will read and summarize six short texts covering the major events of the period.

Social studies teachers can go further by completing both the Read and Reflect portion and then, the Plan and Implement portion (Option II), that requires creation of lesson plans, implementing the lessons in the classroom, and then reporting on the results.

  • Option I, Read and Reflect, for Professional Development – 3 units: teachers will read and summarize six short texts covering the major events of the period. They will utilize the “How to Do History” framework provided.
  • Option II, Plan and Implement, for Social Studies Teachers – 1 additional unit: teachers can

go further in depth by completing both the Read and Reflect portion and the Plan and Execute portion. The Plan and Execute portion requires the creation of detailed lesson plans and the implementation of those plans in the classroom, then reflecting and reporting on results.

Course Context:

History is not about facts. It’s not about dates. It’s not about dead white males. In fact, it’s not even about memorization, though all of those things have their place in the study of history. History is about ideas, specifically the conflict of ideas and how those conflicts played out in earlier times and what they can tell us about today.

Why did democracy emerge in the very specific time and locale of ancient Greece? Why did it lapse? How did the feudalism of the middle ages contend with the rise of capitalism? Why did Europe choose science over religion, as the system for organizing what man knows about the world? Should people have representation in government? Are people rational and can that be a basis for organizing governments? What does it mean to be a “Great Power?” Why do some powers rise while others fall?

These and a thousand other questions like them are the real interest of history. We study these questions—and the people and societies that fought over them—in order to understand our own times, for the questions and the interests they represent are universal. And we study history so we can (hopefully) make better decisions as citizens in our own country today. The famous historian George Santayana said it best: “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”


It is the hope of the instructor that while you are working on this course you will in some way be inspired, perhaps moved, to use what you have learned in this course to experiment with a new approach to teaching history, To Do history in a new way. For those who accept the invitation, I look forward to seeing your project come to life.

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Mary Lou Varni


30+ years teaching experience.

Curriculum developer, in-service leader in the teaching of writing.

Taught course on the development of standards-based teaching, best practices and strategies.