INTELLECTUAL, CULTURAL AND ART HISTORY
From secret societies of the Enlightenment to the art and thought of New York
The Medieval Period
Explore the life, art and thought of the medieval period in this interdisciplinary course on perhaps one of the most misunderstood periods of history. Immerse yourself in the Byzantine churches of Constantinople and Greece, thirteenth century Gothic Cathedrals, frescoes and mosaics. Marvel at illuminated manuscripts, the Bayeux Tapestry, golden chalices and gem-encrusted reliquaries. Discover the literature of the medieval period, including Dante’s Divine Comedy, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the mystical literature of Catherine of Sienna. We will examine the concepts of feudalism, urbanisation and heraldry as well as landmark events such as the Battle of Hastings and the creation of the Magna Carta before going on to discuss medieval religion, including the Catholic Church and Charlemagne, saints, pilgrimage, the rise of Islam and the Crusades. Finally, we will explore the intellectual climate of medieval Europe and the creation of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bologna. Students will have the chance to engage with the philosophy of Boethius, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham among others.
This course is an excellent precursor to our course on the Renaissance and works well with our English history course on the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses. Options for tailoring this course include the incorporation of Medieval Persian literature and medieval Islamic philosophy; we also recommend looking at our history of philosophy course for more options on medieval philosophers. Your personal tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
We begin with an overview of the most important historical events of the Renaissance, such as the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, the Rise of Florence, the Ottoman Empire’s Conquest of Constantinople, Johannes Gutenberg’s Bible, Columbus’ discovery of the Bahamas and the Peace of Augsburg. Next, you will have the opportunity to engage with some of the period’s most innovative philosophers, such as Erasmus, Thomas Moore and Machiavelli. Gain an insight into the religion of the Renaissance through devotions, prayers, pilgrimages and mystical writings and debate the scandal of indulgences, the importance of the Reformation, the Council of Trent and the Wars of Religion. We will explore Renaissance art, from Fra Angelico, Botticelli and Bosch to da Vinci, Michelangelo and Donatello. The Renaissance was a time of extraordinary innovation in science and engineering: get to know the works of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Paracelsus and da Vinci. We will also explore the great literature of the Renaissance, from Chaucer and Milton to Shakespeare. Finally, we will investigate the exciting world of Renaissance exploration, including the journeys of Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo and the mapmaking of Ribeiro and Mercartor.
Opportunities for tailoring this course include an exploration into the exciting world of Renaissance esotericism. This course also works well as a follow-on from our course on the Medieval Period, or as a precursor to our course on the Baroque Period. You might also want to combine it with our history course on Tudor England and we also recommend looking at our Roman Catholicism and history of philosophy courses for more inspiration. Your tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
This course begins with an overview of absolutism in Europe and the revision of the monarchy, along with a survey of important historical events such as the Thirty Years’ War, the Peace of Westphalia and the Counter-Reformation. We will engage with some of the period’s most influential thinkers, including Berkeley, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Voltaire. We will also explore the science of the Baroque, including Bacon and the development of the scientific method and the work of Isaac Newton. You will get to know Baroque artists such as Nicolas Poussin, Clara Peeters, Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Options for tailoring this course include the study of Baroque music, such as the emergence of opera, the use of harmony, the music of Louis XIV’s France, the bel-canto style and the emergence of orchestra. We recommend looking at our interdisciplinary online courses How Music Changed the World and our History of Science course for more inspiration. The course also works well in conjunction with our course on the Enlightenment or as a follow-on from our course on the Renaissance. Your tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
Understanding the Enlightenment is an essential part of making sense of the modern world – and in questioning assumptions about the concept of modernity itself. This course begins by introducing some of the most important debates about the Enlightenment, including the hugely influential Foucault and – importantly – critics of his work. We begin by examining seventeenth century challenges to religion, including Spinoza, Galileo, Kepler and the Lisbon Earthquake. We will explore the thought of Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Montesquieu, John Locke, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and their influence on the American and French revolutions. We will also examine the eighteenth century English political philosophy of Thomas Paine and Jeremy Bentham. Students will investigate the art of the Enlightenment, specifically the rejection of Rococo in favour of the Neoclassicism of Poussin, David, Ingres and Cézanne. Discover the exciting world of the secret societies of the Enlightenment, such as the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati and the Rosicrucians. Finally, investigate the glamorous Grand Tour through Batoni’s portraits and the learn about the spread the Neoclassical style throughout Europe.
Options for tailoring this course include focused case studies on particular geographical areas during the Enlightenment. You might like to focus on the seventeenth century Dutch Republic, studying the art of Pieter de Hooch, Spinoza’s philosophy, and developments in biology, anatomy, mapmaking and the pendulum clock. You might also like to focus on the Scottish Enlightenment, including Select Society, the Poker Club and the works of David Hume and Adam Smith. We also recommend looking at our history of philosophy, history of science and philosophy of anthropology courses for more inspiration. Your personal tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
The Age of Revolution
The years 1774 – 1848 comprised a fascinating period that shaped European and world history, from the French Enlightenment, the American Revolution and the collapse of the Ancien Regime to the British industrial revolution, the abolition of slavery and the Napoleonic Era. Student will discuss the philosophy of Kant, Hegel, Burke, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Marx, Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft as well as religious debates of the period. Explore the revolutionary art, from the romanticism of Eugene Delacroix to the realism of Courbet, Millet and Ingres and the works of Delaroche, Goya and Thomas Lawrence.
Options for tailoring this course include the incorporation of material from our course on Nineteenth Century French Art and Thought, or a detailed study of the French revolution or the making of the American constitution. Your tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
Nineteenth Century French Art and Thought
The nineteenth century was an exciting time for the cultural and intellectual life of France. This course explores romanticism in the literature of Victor Hugo, Andre Dumas, Theophile Gautier and Madame de Stael and in the art of Eugene Delacroix. Discover realism in the literature of George Sand, de Balzac, Flaubert, de Maupassant and in the art of Ingres, Courbet and Millet. We will examine the impressionism of Manet, Renoir, Degas and Cassatt and the post-impressionism of Rousseau, Seurat, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Investigate the symbolism in the literature of Baudelaire and Verlaine and in the art of Paul Gauguin. We will also discover the excitement of nineteenth century French archaeology, from Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, competition with Britain over the Rosetta Stone, Botta at Nineveh and Khorsabad, Cuvier’s palaeontology and the discoveries of the Somme Valley. Students may also delve into the esotericism of Alexandre Saint-Yves and the science of Louis Pasteur Pierre and Marie Curie and Auguste Comte.
Options for tailoring this course include a focused study of the intellectual life of Paris in the nineteenth century, including changes to the face of the city during the Second Empire by Baron Haussmann, the fiction of Balzac and Zola, the poetry of Baudelaire, Manet’s paintings of city life and the illustrious Journal des Debats under Louis Francios Bertin. The course also works well in conjunction with our other online courses on the Age of Revolution and the French Revolution or our history of science, historical mysteries or history of cryptography courses. Your personal tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
Discover the panel paintings and illuminated manuscripts of the medieval period, before going on to examine the Renaissance art of Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Mantegna, van Eyck, van der Weyden, Hieronymus Bosch, Patinir and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Marvel at Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and Lady with an Ermine, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Madonna and Child and the Dispute and the works of Dürer, Titian and El Greco. Baroque artists will include Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Caravaggio, de Ribera, Reni, Poussin, Lorrain, Clara Peeters, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Debate the Enlightenment divide between Poussinists and Rubenists, the French Roccoco and the works of Jacques-Louis David, Francisco de Goya, Eugene Delacroix and Auguste Dominique Ingres. Finally, examine the impressionism of Manet, Renoir, Degas and Cassatt and the post-impressionism of Rousseau, Seurat, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, before investigating the symbolism of Gauguin, Munch and Klimt.
This course works well in conjunction with any of our European history courses, but is also an interesting complement to many of our philosophy and politics courses, such as the History of Philosophy or Political Ideas. Your tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, including politics and the history of political thought.
Art History and Art Theft
Discover the history of art through the exciting lens of the history of art theft. Learn about the theory and history of the works and artists themselves, as well as the politics and culture of the time in which they were stolen in this unique course on art history. We begin by exploring historic art thefts, from the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, the most stolen artwork of all time, to the painting stolen by pirates and the theft of the Mona Lisa. We will explore the motivations of art thieves, from the man who stole Goya’s Duke of Wellington to buy TV licenses for the poor to the thieves who claimed that their mission was to highlight woeful gallery security. Next, we will explore the methods of art thieves, such as the ‘spiderman’ method of the Modigliani thief. We will discuss the return of stolen paintings, such as Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady, Nazi art theft and how Venezuelan political crisis inspired the theft of Matisse’s Odalisque with Red Trousers. We will also investigate foiled heists, including how a flat tyre on the getaway car foiled the theft of 20 paintings from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. The recovery of stolen art, such as Munch’s The Scream and Raphael’s La Muta will be explored, before we go on to investigate the enigma of stolen art that is still missing. Finally, we will examine the business of catching art thieves and the skill of getting away with it.
This course is ideal for anyone with an interest the history of art, art theory, politics and history. It is an excellent complement or introduction to our course on European Paintings and works well in combination with any of our courses on intellectual, cultural and art history. Your tutor has three research degrees in the history of ideas from world-class universities, and has considerable skills in international high jinx.