Age of European Global Expansion

Instructor: Dr. Martin Klimke

Rutgers History Department, Spring 2006
History 506:110, Monday / Wednesday 4:30-5:50
Van Dyck Hall 211, College Avenue, New Brunswick


This course will cover the major themes of European Global Expansion from 1400 until 1914. It will examine how Europeans perceive the wider world in the 15th century and left their continent to explore hitherto unknown territories. Columbus’ landfall in 1492, as well as Vasco De Gama’s arrival in Calicut in the spring of 1498 will be our starting point for an analysis of the factors paving the way for these encounters, such as improved navigation and exploding geographical knowledge. Particular emphasis will be laid on the nature of European contacts to native civilizations and their long-term historical impact both on Europe and on the “discovered” areas and populations.

Special attention will also be paid to cultures and politics of memory existing throughout the various centuries concerning the “age of discovery” and subsequent European expansions. Readings are composed of a variety of primary and secondary sources, and will allow multi-faceted insights into the history of Europe’s global interactions in this time period. Lectures will outline the state of current research and discuss how historians have conceptualized the processes and events under discussion.

Course Requirements:
This course is designed as survey class of European global expansion. The requirements for this course are that you regularly attend class, write two short papers, a midterm and take-home final exam. The lectures will refer to and draw on the assigned readings for this class and it is therefore essential that you complete the assigned readings on time.

Required Reading:

  • Jill Lepore, Encounters in the New World (Oxford University Press, 2001)
  • David Ringrose, Expansion and Global Interaction: 1200-1700 (Longman, 2000)
  • Patricia Seed, Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492-1640 (Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • Miguel Leon-Portilla, ed., The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico (Beacon Press, 1992 expanded ed.)
  • Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific (Princeton University Press, 1997)
  • Marcus Rediker, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Beacon Press: 2005)
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Penguin, 1995)
  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings: Revised Edition (Penguin Classics), 2003