Topics Seminar

This course looks at the advent and growth of maritime empires between 1400- ca. 1800. What was this new thing, the early modern empire? Many of the most exciting theories of empire in the last 30 years of historical scholarship have drawn disproportionately on the 19th and 20th centuries. Meanwhile, the early modern Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and French empires have tended to be studied separately, leaving the nature of early modern empire under-theorized. To what extent do existing arguments about empire fit with earlier transoceanic structures? Can new understandings of empire itself be inferred from the excellent monographic studies of specific colonies published in recent years? We will explore key themes such as slavery, environment, law, science, and intimacy. The particularities of early modern maritime life will also occupy our attention. And, crucially, we will comparatively evaluate indigenous/colonizer interactions in America, Asia, and Africa. Each week, the common readings will be set in historiographical context by a student in the class. Students will pursue individual primary research on a topic of their own choice, culminating in an article-quality research paper due at the end of the term. The intent of the course is to enrich all our understandings of early modern empire by reading widely together, while also deepening our knowledge of specific times and places through our research and writing.

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Fall 2017

Susanah Romney
W: 4:55 PM - 7:35 PM KJCC BSMT

Spring 2018

Pedro Monaville
M: 9:20 AM - 12:15 PM KJCC 717