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HIST 0501 New World Encounters

From the fifteenth century onwards, European merchants, monarchs and writers became increasingly excited by the world beyond the Atlantic Ocean.  It seemed to offer abundant opportunities for fame, fortune and adventure; the possibility of escape from oppression; and perhaps the chance to start afresh.  But, as the initial isolated voyages were succeeded by European settlement and a more regular commerce and interaction with the inhabitants of the Americas, the reality was often one of disease, death and disaster.  Indigenous cultures and civilizations were devastated, and Europe transformed. Students thus encounter resonant questions, and a body of fascinating first-hand sources, which have generated a lively and engaging historiography.

 Sample Topics

  • Medieval Antecedents to New World Exploration
  • Sailing the Ocean Blue: An Heroic Age of Exploration?
  • Imperial(ist) Ideals
  • Transcultural Interaction and Ideas of the ‘Other’
  • Comparing Colonizations: Means and Methods
  • Sociology of Conquerors and Settlers
  • The Finances of Conquest and Settlement
  • The ‘Atlantic System’


Introductory Reading

  • Elliott, J.H., The Old World and the New. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 1992
  • Grafton, A. et al., New Worlds, Ancient Texts. The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,1992
  • Thomas, H., Rivers of Gold. The Rise of the Spanish Empire. London: Penguin, 2nd edn, 2010
  • Canny, N.P. (ed.), Oxford History of the British Empire, Volume I: The Origins of Empire.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
  • Ormrod, D.J., The Rise of Commercial Empires: England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Sahagún, B. de,  General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex. A.J.O. Anderson and C.E. Dibble edd. and trans., Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research, 2nd rev’d edn, 1970-1981
  • Casas, Bartolomé de Las,  A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. N. Griffin trans., London : Penguin, rev’d edn, 2004
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