Experiencing Empire: Britain and the World, 1500-1800 (HIH1026)

Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This course will introduce students to themes, episodes and sources from the rise of the British empire and early modern globalization. Students will be asked to consider how factors such as gender, social status and intended audience affect the tone and content of primary sources. We will consider questions such as: To what extent can we take sources at face value? How do people present themselves in these documents and why? In what ways can we uncover the lives of those who didn’t write about themselves such as women, slaves, or illiterate people?

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments relating to the early modern British Empire and globalization.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates, purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyse and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of the early modern British Empire and globalization.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

The seminar will use published narratives, letters, diaries and court records to explore episodes and themes of early modern empire and globalization, such as early European exploration and encounter; the rise of English chartered companies such as the East India and Levant Companies; British trade, diplomacy and colonization in the Mediterranean, especially with North African “Barbary” States; the experiences of Sailors, pirates and privateers; merchant networks and correspondence; Atlantic migration, including colonization, indenture and the rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade; South Sea exploration and encounter. 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments.
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Edward Coxere, Adventures by sea of Edward Coxere (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1945).
  • Elizabeth Marsh, Elizabeth Marsh: The Female Captive, a Narrative of Facts Which Happened in Barbary in the Year 1756, Written by Herself (Moroccan Cultural Studies Centre, 2003).
  • Streynsham Master, The Diaries of Streynsham Master, 1675-1680 (London: J. Murray, 1911).
  • Elizabeth Wortley Montagu, Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M--Y W-----Y M------E: Written during Her Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa, to Persons of Distinction, Men of Letters, &c. in Different Parts of Europe (London: T. Cadell, 1784).
  • Equiano Olaudah, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London, 1794).
  • Randy J. Sparks, The Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey (Harvard University Press, 2009)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

State Papers Online; Excerpts from Slave Narratives, Steven Mintz ed.; Old Bailey Online; Early English Books Online; British History Online; History Matters.

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Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Britain, Early Modern Empire, globalisation, personal experiences.