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Unit information: Race, Religion, and Gender: Readings in the History of the Iberian Atlantic World, 1430-1830 in 2015/16

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Unit name Race, Religion, and Gender: Readings in the History of the Iberian Atlantic World, 1430-1830
Unit code HISP20062
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Williams
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will enable students of Spanish and Portuguese to explore the nature and consequences of the process whereby the four continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean were drawn together and transformed by the Spanish and Portuguese voyages of the fifteenth century. Study of this complex phenomenon, which led to the creation of a new ‘Atlantic’ community, or ‘Atlantic World’, has been described as one of the most important historiographical developments of recent years. It has engaged historians of western Europe, Africa, and the Americas in re-evaluating the impact, for all regions and peoples affected, of the unprecedented circulation across and around the ocean of individuals and communities of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and of an exceptionally wide range of products, practices, and ideas. With an emphasis on race. religion and gender, students will be encouraged to assess the significance and usefulness of the concept of the ‘Atlantic World’, and to explore connections and draw comparisons between the experiences of members of both Iberian nations, and of the disparate peoples, enslaved and free, of their Atlantic colonies and settlements. The unit consists of informal lectures and seminar work, discussion of primary documents and secondary reading, and group presentations. It aims to:

  • develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the tangled histories of the peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas during the early modern period;
  • develop students’ understanding of recent historiographical developments and the debates to which they have given rise;
  • develop students’ ability to engage critically with broad concepts, and to assess their significance and usefulness;
  • develop students’ ability to work with primary and secondary historical sources;
  • develop students’ ability to engage with complex questions, and produce balanced and coherent answers that draw on wide reading and careful reflection

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will have:

  • advanced knowledge and understanding of the entangled histories of the peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas during the early modern period;
  • advanced knowledge and understanding of the social and cultural, as well as political and economic, consequences of the unprecedented circulation of people, products, practices, and ideas that followed the Spanish and Portuguese voyages of the sixteenth centuries;
  • have developed their skills of research from a variety of written media;
  • have developed their skills of written and oral presentation;
  • have developed team-work skills through group discussion and presentations.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour weekly slot, consisting of an informal lecture and a seminar

Assessment Information

Formative: Students will be required to give one or more short presentations, normally as part of a group. Group presentations will enable students to develop teamwork skills, presentation, and oral communication

Summative: 1 x 2000 word essays (50%) and 1 x 2-hour exam, consisting of two essays (50%)

Both pieces of assessment require students to: demonstrate good subject knowledge of the field; conduct independent research; evaluate historical evidence; demonstrate skills in critical thinking and analysis; present structured arguments in appropriate language. The exam is designed to test the breadth of student understanding of the topic’s diversity while the essay requires students to research and reflect analytically on a particular aspect. Students will be required to demonstrate the ability to perform close textual analysis with appropriate attention to context in both exercises.

Reading and References

Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: HarvardUniversity Press, 2005) Caroline A. Williams (ed.),

Bridging the Early Modern Atlantic World: People, Products, and Practices on the Move (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009) Thomas Benjamin,

The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans, Indians and Their Shared History, 1400-1900 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Toyin Falola and Kevin D. Roberts, The Atlantic World: 1450-2000 (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008) Marcy Norton,

Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, N.Y. and London: Cornell University Press, 2008) Stuart B, Schwartz,

All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008) Juan Javier Pescador,

The New World Inside a Basque Village: The Oiartzun Valley and Its Atlantic Emigrants, 1550-1800 (Reno and Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 2004) Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert,

A Nation Upon the Ocean Sea: Portugal's Atlantic Diaspora and the Crisis of the Spanish Empire, 1492-1640 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)