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Unit information: The Smugglers' City (Level I Special Field) in 2016/17

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Unit name The Smugglers' City (Level I Special Field)
Unit code HIST26010
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jones
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

During the sixteenth century Bristol became, in a very literal sense, a smugglers' city , ruled over by a merchant elite that were heavily involved in illicit trading. This Special Field will explore how Bristol 's ruling elite created, operated, and protected their smuggling operations during the sixteenth century and how, more generally, they sought to maintain and increase their power in the city during the Tudor and Stuart period. By studying Bristol 's black-economy and comparing it to that of other times and places, the unit will seek to determine how organised crime worked in this period and why it was so difficult to suppress. The unit is based on Dr Jones award-winning research and offers students the opportunity to participate in his ongoing work into smuggling, the Bristol discovery voyages and the seventeenth-century development of the America's trade. As such, the associated project workshops will be geared towards preparing students to undertake original research on early modern manuscripts an approach that has resulted in some stunningly good work in previous years

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • identified, analysed, and deepened their understanding of the significance of key themes
  • understood the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from discussion in a small-group environment

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

1 x 2 hour exam

Reading and References

P. Croft, ‘Trading with the enemy, 1585-1604’, Historical Journal, 32 (1989)

E. T. Jones, Inside the Illicit Economy: Reconstructing the Smugglers' Trade of Sixteenth Century Bristol (Ashgate, 2012).

John U. Nef, ‘Richard Camarden’s “A Caveat for the Quene” (1570), Journal of Political Economy , 41 (1933), 33-41

D.H. Sacks, The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy 1450-1700 (California, 1991)

G. D. Ramsay, ‘The Smugglers’ Trade: A Neglected Aspect of English Commercial Development’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, II (1952)

N.J. Williams, ‘Francis Shaxton and the Elizabethan port books’, English Historical Review , LXVI (1951)