HS3SSC-Sea Changes: Britain and the Maritime World, 1500-1800

Module Provider: History
Number of credits: 40 [20 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Richard Blakemore

Email: r.blakemore@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module explores the relationship between British society and the sea through a period of transition and transformation. During the early modern period far-flung regions of the world became increasingly connected by sea travel, driving cultural interactions and social changes which reshaped the world. Britain, like other European states, established extensive trading networks and a seaborne empire that stretched across oceans and continents. In this module we will study how Britain became a ‘maritime nation’ in cultural, practical, and political terms, forging an identity which is still influential today.


Specials aim to provide 'hands-on' experience of the historian's task through close examination and evaluation of primary sources and the light they shed on issues and problems.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • undertake detailed textual and visual analysis and comment on the primary materials

  • achieve a detailed command of varying historical interpretations of the primary materials and subject as a whole

  • organise material and articulate arguments effectively in writing under timed conditions

  • recognise and interpret a wide range of different primary materials

  • locate and assemble information on the subject by independent research

  • deploy primary materials to shed light on the issues and problems being studied

Additional outcomes:

This module also aims to encourage the development of oral communication skills and the student’s effectiveness in group situations. Students will also develop their IT skills by use of relevant web resources.

Outline content:

We shall examine the development of Britain’s relationship with the maritime world during the period 1500-1800 from several angles. How did cultural attitudes about the sea itself shift over this period, and how was this related to changes in religious culture within Britain, and to encounters with other parts of the world, marine and terrestrial? What was life like for seafarers, as they undertook ever longer and more dangerous voyages, and for their families? How did the growth of these maritime communities, across Britain and its empire, affect wider society, and how did they respond to the appearance of stereotypes about them? What impact did overseas trade have on the British economy, and on the material culture of everyday life – even for people who never travelled across, or perhaps never even saw, the sea? What efforts did the British state make to control these seafaring activities and coordinate its empire, and how successful were these efforts? How did the empire affect those communities and cultures with which it came into contact, and which it often sought to supplant? Throughout the module we will seek to answer these questions by considering a wide variety of primary sources, mainly textual, but also encompassing visual and material sources, such as those in the collections of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. We will also engage critically with the methodologies of maritime historians, and other scholars who have studied this topic. Students will therefore have the opportunity to build their own understanding of this period, of Britain’s relationship with the maritime world, and of the wider implications and legacies of that relationship.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

  • The teaching for this module involves weekly two-hour discussion seminars.

  • Students will gain ‘hands-on’ experience of the historian’s task through the detailed evaluations of key texts, objects, and images, and the light they shed on the issues and problems being investigated.

  • Students will be required to prepare for seminars through reading from both the primary sources and the secondary literature.

  • Students are expected to carry out self-directed revision in the summer term. Staff will be available for consultation as necessary.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 22 22
Tutorials 2
Guided independent study: 176 178
Total hours by term 200 200
Total hours for module 400

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 40
Written assignment including essay 60

Summative assessment- Examinations:

A two-hour paper involving detailed commentary on extracts from the sources studied.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write two essays (each constituting 30% of the overall mark for the module) to be submitted electronically, the first by 12 noon on the Monday of Week 1 in the spring term, the second by 12 noon on the Wednesday of Week 11 in the spring term. Each essay shall not exceed 3,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. Essays which exceed the word limit by more than 5% will incur a penalty of five marks. Candidates will be rewarded for making appropriate use of the prescribed texts.

Formative assessment methods:

Formative work, for instance seminar presentations, book reviews, posters, practice source commentaries, will be required for this Special Subject over the two terms.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-assessment will be by the same method as the module’s original requirement, subject to variation by the Examination Board where appropriate.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 10 September 2019


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