The Acceleration of Europe: Mobility and Communication, 1000-­1700

Professor Shaw taught this course at Wesleyan University in the fall of 2014.  The following is the course description:

“This research course explores the thesis that during the Middle Ages, Europeans began to move faster, to move more often, and, by doing so, transformed the nature of social life, cultural life, and the character of selves and minds in the world. The course will explore the material aspects of this, such as the nature and development of roads and bridges, ships and canals, inns and hospitality that sustained and encouraged advancing travel. Thematic importance will be given to the place of horses and horseriding in these developments. The course is about the history of communication and the idea that a particular sort of traveler was created through later medieval travel and became the means of cultural and psychological acceleration. The social and cognitive networks established through travel, including the exchange of letters and messages, linked the local to the national. Merchants, pilgrims, soldiers, judges, students, preachers, and bureaucrats became the means of spreading news, changing views, and speeding up the world. This course will expose students to methods and skills in the digital humanities such as network analysis, Geographic Information Systems, and database analysis.”