Empires: Europe's Expansion Overseas 1450-1800 (HISM335)

StaffProfessor Maria Fusaro - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The subject of this module is the study of European medieval and early modern maritime expansion and the creation of commercial empires. Focusing on the importance of long distance maritime trade for European economies and societies since the Middle Ages, this module analyses the reasons behind European expansion and its practical modalities, describing the different kinds of empires that were constructed by different European states. Particular attention is dedicated to how Europeans adjusted their modalities of commercial penetration and conquest, and on how this contributed to shape European politics, economies and culture.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Work at both macro and micro levels: at the level of state policy and at the level of human survival.
  • 2. Learn to make case studies, and draw contrasts between ways of behaviour in different societies.
  • 3. Learn to identify the structures that supported life overseas, and those that made for extinction.
  • 4. Gain an appreciation of time scales, the nature of geographical barriers to communication, and the entrepenurial nature of humanity.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 6. Identify and understand the nature of original sources.
  • 7. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates.
  • 8. Research for themselves and present independent accounts and interpretations of different historical issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Develop the capacity for independent critical study and thought.
  • 10. Apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids)
  • 11. Construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 12. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

Exact syllabus may vary year to year but an indicative syllabus is:

Week 1: Before European Hegemony and the Ideological Background. Week 2: The Medieval Precursors: Genoa and Venice Week 3: The Portuguese in Asia Week 4: Empire and Warfare at Sea. Week 5: The Spanish in America and in the Pacific Week 6: Agents of Empire Week 7: The beginnings of the British Empire Week 8: The Dutch: trade and finance Week 9: The Ottoman Empire and maritime trade Week 10: On Empires in the Indian Ocean: Week 11: Global Empires and European Hegemony: a long-term analysis

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 study278Preparation for seminars, essays and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing1-10Oral through discussion with peers and tutor.

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
Essay3830001-9Oral and written
Essay3730001-9Oral and written
Individual Presentation (with visual aids)2525-30 minutes1-10Oral and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period
PresentationScript as for 25-30 minute presentation1-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of two 3,000 word essays, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script and accompanying visual aids that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 25-30 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Canny N. ed., The Origins of Empire. British Overseas Enterprise to the close of the Seventeenth Century, Oxford, 1998;
Chaudhuri K.N., Asia before Europe. Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750, Cambridge, 1990;
Curtin P.D., The World and the West. The European Challenge and the Overseas Response in the Age of Empire, Cambridge, 2000
Glete J., Warfare at sea, 1500-1650: maritime conflicts and the transformation of Europe, London, 2000;
Steensgaard N., Carracks, Caravans and Companies: the structural crisis in the European-Asian trade in the early 17th century, Chicago, 1975

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