Skip to main content

Unit information: The Smugglers' City (Level I Special Field) in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyse key themes in the history of smugglers in Bristol
  2. Understand and use historical methods specific to the study of smugglers in Bristol.
  3. Discuss and evaluate the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  4. Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  5. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level I.

Teaching Information

1 x 2hr Seminar per week

1 x 1hr Seminar per week

Assessment Information

  • Portfolio Part 1: 750 word primary source analysis [10%] (ILOs 1-3)
  • Portfolio Part 2: 750 word broad question [10%] (ILOs 1-3)
  • 4000 word research project [80%] (ILOs 1-5)

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)