The Age of Discovery: Sources [A]

Department of History, School of History and Cultures

College of Arts and Law


Code 22614

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester 1

Module description

The overall educational aim of these linked modules is to provide students with a deep knowledge and critical understanding of the period of European discovery and encounter with the wider world beyond the confines of Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa. Between c. 1400 and c. 1600, Europeans passed the tropic of Cancer, hitherto seen as a complete barrier to expansion, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, sailed through the Straits of Magellan, circumnavigated the world and founded the first large international trading monopolies. In this period, the Atlantic seaboard ceased to be a periphery region and became a key region of European power. This module examines the politically laden term of discovery, and debates its suitability. We shall discuss and evaluate some the technological and intellectual developments that needed to occur to bring about an age of discovery, and examine both some of the practicalities involved in exploration and encounter, and the implications for the political, social and intellectual history in Europe. It will focus on the countries directly involved in expansion, particularly England, France, Spain and Portugal. A wide range of historical sources is anlysed, including ships' papers, official and personal papers, memoirs, journals, letters, maps, navigational instruments and cosmographical treatises.