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The University of Southampton

HIST2059 Plague, Fire and Popish Plots: The Worlds of Charles II

Module Overview

During his lifetime Charles II was described as charming, indolent and a womaniser, while his court was seen as far more informal than that of his father, Charles I. This module will seek to assess the validity of this view and it will consider the challenges Charles II faced a monarch. While the primary focus is upon Charles II, we will place him in a wider context by considering the relationship of the king and his capital, the changing role of the city of London and draw comparisons with Paris and Versailles. We will also look at how Charles II responded to practical challenges such as plague and fire in London, as well as political and religious threats such as the Popish plot, the place of women in society and the role of coffee houses as a site of political discourse.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The key events in the reign of Charles II
  • The changing nature of kingship in this period and how people responded to the restoration of the monarchy
  • Court and popular culture in London
  • The impact of plague, fire and plots on court culture and the people of London
  • The similarities and differences between the English and French courts
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate and analyze critically a variety of primary written and visual sources.
  • Make well-supported judgments about the value of different historiographical perspectives on different aspects of Charles II's reign
  • Formulate your own responses on the key topics under discussion and be able to communicate them effectively in informal discussion and formal written exercises
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively in seminar discussions;
  • Work effectively as part of a group and give a group presentation;
  • Gather information and organise it into an accurate and coherent essay;
  • Demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively in the context of a timed exam.


• Execution, exile and restoration - the changing nature of kingship and monarchy in England in the second half of the seventeenth century • Creating the king's image: portraiture, clothing and reputation • Wives and mistresses: the place of women at the Caroline court • Documenting the period: The writings of Pepys, Evelyn and Defoe • 1665: Plague in London • 1666: The immediate effect of the Great fire of London and its long term impact on the architecture and layout of the city • Comparisons with and influences from the court of Louis XIV at Versailles • Court and urban culture • Religious tensions and the impact of the 'Popish' plot • 1685-89: Monarchy in crisis? The succession crisis and the Glorious Revolution

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures and tutor-led seminars; • Individual consultations on essays Learning activities include • Individual preparatory reading for seminars; • Further reading and research for the practice and assessed essays; • Accessing on-line resources • Preparing and presenting seminar papers. The module handout provides a detailed outline of the structure of the module, together with full details of module requirements and guidance on reading for seminars and essays. Lectures are designed to introduce you to issues of chronology, as well as key concepts used in understanding the reign of Charles II. Seminars will focus on particular case studies or themes raised in the lectures, allowing you to explore those themes in greater depth, and to develop your skills in analysing different interpretations of the reign of Charles II. Oral presentations will provide opportunities for you to develop your oral communication skills, both as presenters and as respondents, and to learn from other students. The essay is intended to help you to develop, articulate, and organise your ideas, as well as to help you to develop your skills in the formal presentation of critical arguments and the analysis of different kinds of evidence. The examination will provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think critically and to write under timed conditions

Completion of assessment task100
Preparation for scheduled sessions130
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

D. de Marly (1987). Louis XIV and Versailles. 

M. Ashley (1971). Charles II: The Man and the Statesman. 

A. Ribeiro (2005). Fashion and Fiction: Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England. 

C. Macleod and J. M. Alexander eds (2001). Painted Ladies: Women at the Court of Charles II. 

T. Harris (2006). Restoration: Charles II and his Kingdoms, 1660-1685. 

P. Mansel (2005). Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II. 

R. Ollard (1979). The Image of the King: Charles I and Charles II. 

R. Ollard (1974). Pepys: A Biography. 

T. Harris (1990). London Crowds in the Reign of Charles II: Propaganda and Politics from the Restoration until the Exclusion Crisis. 

R. Hutton (1989). Charles II: King of England, Scotland and Ireland. 

C. Tomalin (2002). Samuel Pepys: the Unequalled Self. 

A Bryant (1934). The England of Charles II. 

B Coward (2003). The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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