I'm teaching a class on early modern drama and politics this semester at the MA level. Most of our MA students are bright and good at working with modern texts, but have relatively little experience with early modern texts, and pretty much no sense of early modern history.
So, I want them to get enough of a sense of early modern history to work well with the plays, but I don't want to have to focus much of my own energies on teaching history per se.
What I'm looking for are suggestions for helping students learn and teach each other history.
One thing I'm thinking of is working on a class timeline, starting with a couple that are out there, and then having them expand and develop it. I'm thinking of giving students in groups a year and asking them to look up on EEBO and find what they can about laws, especially regarding theater and such, or political theory. That might get overwhelming, though, since there's a lot of stuff published in any given year.
Or I might ask them to work in groups to talk about the plays performed professionally in a given year or two.
One of the very best assignments I've ever heard of asked students in a late 19th/early 20th century Brit course to read a full year of one or another specific magazines, and then to work up a short presentation. Students weren't only looking at articles, but advertizing and such, and it was so cool!
But in my period, no one had thought of publishing magazines quite yet. They did have some rocking broadsides and ballads, though!
What helps you learn to put together historical contexts?
What have you found works to help your students put together historical contexts?
Thanks in advance for the help!