Teaching Plans, or Freddie, Maria, and Kate.

February 10, 2004

Tomorrow we are talking about State Power - a discussion of absolute monarchs focusing on Eastern Europe in the 18th century. I could just as easily have titled the class the Freddie, Maria and Kate show, because I tend to organize this era around the hate triangle involving Frederick II, Maria-Thersa, and Catherine I.

I have two potential stories to use to cover the material for tomorrow, and I am not sure which would work better. So, I will write them both up here. Then I will pick the better and use it as my introduction for tomorrow. Both narratives will have to cover: Prussia, Austria, and Russia; enlightened despots; women and the enlightenment; 18th century warfare; and the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' War, and the Partitions of Poland. It would be good if I also talked about agricultural specialization and the increase in market production with the concomitant movement of peasants off the land and into cities or into cottage industry. It is a LOT of stuff to cover, which is why I am looking for a story that will help the kids put all the pieces together.

My original plan was to be very schematic: start by talking about Voltaire and absolute monarchs, follow by tracing the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, complete with a discussion of 18th century land warfare, up through 1740 when Frederick II takes over; tracing the expansion of Austria through 1740 when Maria-Theresa takes over and is met by unrest because she is a woman; quickly moving from Peter I through Peter III and marrying Peter to a German noblewoman named Catherine. After that scene setting - which will probably take 40 minutes - I would quickly fight the war of the Austrian Succession, jump to the 7 Year's war, and have Peter save Frederick's bacon before Catherine overthrows her husband and has him murdered. The end of the class would then be a discussion of Frederick, M-T, and Catherine as they applied Enlightenment principles to governing their empires towards the end of the 18th century. Finally, the sacrificial sub-section would be a discussion of economics and agriculture. This structure would work, the only trick would be not getting bogged down early on. The kids are writing homework on the Enlightenment and Women, so I will have to make time to talk about it, probably early on right after my preliminary remarks where I explain what we will be doing in class - they always talk more during class if they start out with a discussion.

The alternative plan looks quite similar: it is also centered on the hate triangle between the three rulers and it covers much of the same material. The difference is that instead of introducing all three nations and then having them fight, I would move more thematically: introductory remarks; rise of Brandenburg Prussia to 1740, complete with discussion of 18th century warfare; then discuss women and use that discussion to inform our narrative of Austria and Maria-Theresa; Fight the war of the Austrian Succession; introduce Russia and run all the way from Peter I through Peter III. I might also fight the 7 Year's war before I introduce Russia. The ending would me much like the first, looking at these three states to the end of the 18th century, showing just how far enlightenment ideals went, and then closing with agricultural economics. The big difference is that it moves their discussion later on, moves Russia later on, and breaks the narrative of war and partition with a long digression on Russian History. It is more discursive and less schematic, almost a stream of consciousness narrative, and I risk leaving Russia out entirely if I get bogged down early.

In any case, I do intend to focus on the three rulers - if only for the fun of talking about Freddie, Maria, and Kate and their hate triangle. (Actually, Catherine sort of admired Frederick, her lover and the army hated Peter III's adolescent hero-worship that led him to withdraw from a long and bloody war right when they were about to win. Still, Catherine had Peter murdered not for his war policy but because she despised his very bones.)

For now, I will write up notes on the various building blocks, for the biggest difference between the two class narratives is the order in which I will introduce my sections and the clarity with which I distinguish between the various topics. The second is smoother and more interesting, the first might be easier to take notes on.

EDIT - spelling and moved below the fold.

Posted by Red Ted at February 10, 2004 08:42 AM | TrackBack