Critical Approaches to Maritime and Naval History (HISM002)

StaffDr Laura Rowe - Lecturer
Dr James Davey - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the main themes and approaches in the study of Maritime and Naval History from the traditional and classic approaches based on the study of geographical explorations and the expansion of individual European empires, to the more recent focus on the interactions and interconnectivity between different imperial and economic systems, and the crucial interaction between economic, political and strategic concerns. Starting with a focus on the British experience since the Middle Ages, it will move on to discuss other European realities, fostering the comparative study of both research methodologies and analysis of primary evidence in different realities and on different topics. Particular attention will be dedicated to how focusing on the sea can provide alternative interpretations of some of the most important issues of historical analysis such as the interaction of state institutions and private enterprise; the development of national and professional identities; defence concerns and economic growth; knowledge transfer; cultural identities and self-perception.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and evaluate the main themes and approaches in the study of Maritime and Naval History
  • 2. Possess detailed knowledge of the key historiographical and theoretical debates informing the study of Maritime and Naval History from the Middle Ages to the contemporary world.
  • 3. Assess critically the role of primary sources in informing the study of Maritime and Naval History, and discuss the challenges of adopting a local, national or global approach.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates, and recognise the differences between different approaches and source types.
  • 6. Develop practical research skills in the primary and secondary evidence.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical research, study and thought, including developing the ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 8. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way.
  • 9. Apply key bibliographical skills to independent study.

Syllabus plan

Over the course of one term, potential seminar topics include (these will vary depending on  staff expertise and student choice):


1)    The Maritime-Naval Divide


2)    War at Sea


3)    The Sea in National Histories and Identities


4)    Constitutions, Maritime and Naval Power


5)    Global and World Histories of the Sea


6)    Oceanic Perspectives


7)    The Challenges of Technology


8)    Maritime Trade


9)    Maritime Labour History


10) Institutions: Fiscal-Military State and Logistics


11) Sea and Empires


12) The Cultural History of the Sea

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 activities2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study278Independent Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan2-sides A4 maximum1-9Verbal and written feedback

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
Book Review332,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback
Essay674,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book ReviewBook Review1-9Referral/deferral period.
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

- J. Glete, Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650: Maritime Conflicts and the Transformation of Europe, London-New York, 2000

- D. Redford ed., Maritime history and identity: the sea and culture in the modern world, London, 2014

- R.W. Unger ed., Shipping and Economic Growth 1350-1850, Leiden, 2011

- M. Fusaro and A. Polónia eds., Maritime History as Global History, St John’s, 2010

- J.H. Bentley, R. Bridenthal and K. Wigen eds., Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures and Transoceanic Exchanges, Honolulu, 2007

- R. Morriss, The Foundations of British Maritime Ascendency 1755-1815. Resources, Logistics and the State,Cambridge, 2010

- L. Benton, A Search for Sovereignty. Law and Geography in European Empires 1400-1900, Cambridge, 2010

- M. Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750, Cambridge, 1987

- P. E. Steinberg, The Social Construction of the Ocean, Cambridge, 2001

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Last revision date


Key words search

Maritime history, Naval history, sea, empires