Each week we will be looking at a set period from our past. Although these are our ancestors, it will seem like we are studying a distant planet, inhabited by people with the strangest of habits. Fortunately, these subjects of our observation give us abundant clues about who they are. Their art, their writing, their technology, the way they do business, the way they govern
themselves all feed into a picture we will attempt to paint for ourselves each week. Understanding who they were will help us understand who we are.
Each week you will be given three or four questions pertaining to important topics covered in the materials provided in the question itself, the textbook, the lectures, the other materials provided, and my comments in my Live Session. You choose the one question you like and post a response of 125 words or more. You also need to respond to another post from one of your fellow students. This second post should be at least 60 or so words long and should not just agree with or repeat what has been said.
Please always use an example that has not already been used in the discussion.
- European monarchs followed the example of Louis XIV and one of them is well described in your book, Frederick William of Prussia aka Frederick the Great. What does his palace Sans Souci and what we know about him personally, tell us about the way he saw his world and promoted his power? Frederick the Great was an aggressive monarch who built his kingdom into what would become the German nation.
- Your book makes the point that, in many ways, Classical music is a reaction against the Rococo and its wild exuberance. Why did symphonic orchestras form at this time? What composers used this form to express a new world view? How does Classical music reflect Enlightenment thinking?
- The ancient artwork traditions of China and Japan began to enter the European world as European trade became a huge business and cultural exchange. Europe fell in love with what came to be known as chinoiserie. The reality is that China was an ancient and quite advanced civilization, scientifically far ahead of the West in many ways. What Europeans saw as exotic artifacts from a mysterious land reflected the many cultural traditions that melded to form Chinese culture in the 18th Century. What are some examples of chinoiserie and other artifacts of Asian culture that became so popular in Western Europe? Why were Europeans so enthusiastic about anything Asian? Why do you think Europeans were so arrogant about their self-conceived superiority?
- Chapter 26 covers both the American and French Revolutions. Both proclaim liberty for all but America built slavery into its most important founding document and the French kept the Haitians enslaved until they too fought to free themselves. Why were slaves so important to both countries? How did slavery become a huge international trade system? How are slavery and racism connected in America?
- Many of our oldest and most important buildings in America are Neo-Classical in design. Our nation’s capital was laid out in the midst of this design period. The documents created by the political leaders of the time were also built on Greek and Roman ideas. Recent events in Washington make it seem as if this architectural style doesn’t work in 2021. Strains and stresses in our society tend to indicate that our founding documents might need deep re-examination. Are we being constrained by following these 200 year old documents? What about them should be changed if anything, to bring about an America where we are all equal and free? Should we stop using these ancient buildings in exchange for greater security?