Making a Maritime Nation: England in the Tudor Age (HIH1036)

StaffDr James Davey - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The first aim of this module is to introduce you to the maritime history of the Tudor era. This will be taught through a series of focused sessions that will ground you in the chronology and key events of the period. It will also connect you with a number of historiographies that can be explored further in other modules. These include debates on national identity, the purpose and legacy of empire, England’s relationship with Europe, and the development of the Royal Navy.

Just as importantly, the module will familiarize you with the types of sources used by early-modern historians. Seminars will discuss different source types, including state documents, personal letters, various forms of published writing (travel narratives, books, plays and treatises), paintings, museum objects and archaeological findings. You will have the opportunity to conduct their own research into these sources, consider their value and limitations, and use them to explore particular topics and themes. You will also be encouraged to think about the absence of sources, and consider what this means for historical study. This module will help you develop skills in source analysis and research to provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and assess the main factors that contributed to England’s emergence as a maritime nation in the Tudor era.
  • 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 analyze and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of English maritime history.

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 organize 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

Weekly seminar topics might include: early-modern voyages of exploration, the origins of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the establishment of the Royal Navy and the Royal Dockyards, the experience of life at sea, the founding of trading companies, privateering and piracy, maritime propaganda, early colonisation and the failed colony of Roanoke, the Spanish Armada, and the visual representation of the maritime world in the Tudor era.

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 independant studies128Students 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

Basic reading:


Stephen Alford, London’s Triumph: Merchant Adventurers and the Tudor City (London: Allen Lane, 2017)


Jerry Brotton, This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World (London: Allen Lane, 2016)


Charles Carlton, This Sea of Mars: War and the British Isles 1485-1746 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011),


Nicholas Canny, ed. The Origins of Empire: British Overseas Enterprise to the Close of the Seventeenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)


David Childs, Tudor Sea Power: The Foundation of Greatness (Barnsley: Seaforth, 2009)


J.H. Elliot, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2006)


James Evans, Merchant Adventurers: The Voyage of Discovery that Transformed Tudor England (London, 2013)


Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)


David Loads, ‘From the King’s Ships to the Royal Navy, 1500-1642’, in J.R. Hill, ed. The Oxford History of the Royal Navy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 24-55.


N.A.M. Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649 (London: Allen Lane, 2004)


David Scott, Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power (London: Harper Collins, 2013)


Penry Williams, The Later Tudors: England, 1547-1603 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, The New Oxford History of England series, 1995)

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Key words search

England, Maritime, Trade, Warfare, Slavery, Empire, privateering, piracy, Royal Navy, national identity.