Dr Margaret Small MA (University of Victoria) DPhil (Oxford)

Department of History
Lecturer in Europe and the Wider World

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a lecturer in Early Modern History with a focus on European exploration and colonisation in the sixteenth century. My primary research areas are in the history of geography and the history of exploration.


I studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada where I studied both History and Classics particularly focusing on Greek and Latin. I then took a Master’s in Greek and Roman studies at the University of Victoria under Gordon Shrimpton where I wrote a thesis on the geographical idea of Herodotus. I studies at Oxford to study for a doctorate where I was able to bring together my interests in classics, the Renaissance and the history of geography, writing a thesis on classical influences on sixteenth century geographical thought under Nicholas Davidson.

In 2003 I was given the Sackler Research Fellowship at the National Maritime Museum where I was looking at Neoplatonic influences on sixteenth-century exploration. I was awarded the Caird Senior Research Fellowship at the National Maritime Museum in 2005 to study John Dee’s uses of Ramusio. I joined the University of Birmingham in 2007.



  • Practising History: Facts, Finds and Fiction; Pizarro, Atahualpa and the Conquest of the Incas
  • Early Modern History

Second year

  • Blood and Steel; Indigenous Peoples and the Spanish Conquest of the New World
  • Group Research: Lost in the Arctic; the Search for the Northwest Passage
  • Dissertation Preparation

Third year

  • Reviewing History: The Power of Print
  • Reviewing History: The Nature of the Native
  • Dissertation Supervision
  • Special Subject: The Age of Discovery


Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to offer postgraduate supervision in a variety of subjects, including aspects of the Classical tradition, particularly the classical revival of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; also History of geography, and the History of European expansion and colonisation in the fifteenth, sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research interests are in the classical tradition, history of geography, and the interplay between thought and action in Early Modern European exploration, expansion and colonisation. I am currently completing a book entitled Framing the World: Classical influences on sixteenth-century geographical thought which is derived from my doctoral thesis. I am also interested in the international exchange of geographical information in the sixteenth century, and is working on a second book entitled. A World Explored through Reading which looks at the influence of stay-at-home geographers on explorers and colonisers in the sixteenth-century. I am currently completing an article on Plato and the search for the Northwest Passage in the sixteenth century.

My wider research interests include the classical tradition in Early Modern Europe, the history of ideas, intellectual communities, and the history of travel.



  • From Jellied Seas to Open Waterways: Redefining the Northern Limit of the Knowable World’, Renaissance Studies 21 ( June 2007) 315-340 (winner of the best article in Renaissance Studies 2007)
  • ‘Ptolemy and Strabo: Warring Traditions in the Geography of Sebastian Münster’, Warburg Colloquia series, forthcoming
  • Displacing Ptolemy? The textual geographies of Ramusio’s Navigazioni e viaggi
  • A World Seen through Another’s Eyes: Hakluyt, Ramusio and the Narratives of the Navigazioni e viaggi

Review articles

  • Exchange of Knowledge and Culture in Early Modern Europe; A review article for European Historical Quarterly

Book reviews

  • Longitude and Empire: How Captain Cook’s Voyages Changed the World, by Brian Richardson for The Journal for Maritime Research
  • Maps in the Atlases of the British Library; a Descriptive Catalogue c. AD 850-1800, by Rodney Shirley for the Cartographic Journal
  • The Cosmographia of Sebastian Munster, by Matthew McLean for Early Science and Medicine
  •  A New World for a New Nation by Francisco Borge for Sixteenth Century Journal
  • Framing the World: Classical Influences on Sixteenth-Century Geographical Thought forthcoming

View all publications in research portal