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

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in Europe and the Wider World

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a Senior 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 studied 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.


Recent publications


Small, M 2020, Framing the World: Classical Influences on Sixteenth-Century Geographical Thought. Boydell & Brewer. <https://boydellandbrewer.com/framing-the-world.html>


Small, M 2022, 'Transformer and Influencer: Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s Impact on Western European Geography', Journal of Early Modern History. <https://brill.com/view/journals/jemh/jemh-overview.xml>

Small, M 2013, 'Dee, Davis Gilbert and Plato: Theoretical ideas behind the search for the Northwest Passage', Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 1041 - 1058.

Small, M 2013, 'From thought to action', Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 1041-1058. <https://www.escj.org/article/thought-action-gilbert-davis-and-dee%E2%80%99s-theories-behind-search-northwest-passage>

Small, M 2011, 'Exchange of Knowledge and Culture in Early Modern Europe', European Historical Quarterly.

Small, M 2011, 'Warring Traditions: Ptolemy and Strabo in the Geography of Sebastian Munster', Journal of the Warburg Institute.

Small, M 2009, 'Combining old and new: Classical motifs in Geographical Title Pages in the Sixteenth-Century', GEOGRAPHIA ANTIQUA; Rivista di geografia storica del mondo antico e di storia della geografia, pp. 195-203.

Small, M 2007, 'From jellied seas to open waterways: redefining the northern limit of the knowable world', Renaissance Studies, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 315-339. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-4658.2007.00419.x


Small, M 2016, The Wider World. in L Sangha & J Willis (eds), Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources. Routledge Guides to Using Historical Sources, Routledge, pp. 273-288.

Small, M & Lilley, K (ed.) 2013, Displacing Ptolemy? The Textual Geographies of Ramusio's Navigazioni E Viaggi. in Mapping Medieval Geographies: Cartography and Georgraphical Thought in the Latin West and Beyond, 300-1600.

Small, M 2012, A World Seen through Another's Eyes: Hakluyt, Ramusio and the Navigazionai E VIaggi. in D Carey & C Jowett (eds), Richard Hakluyt and Collected Travel Writing in Early Modern Europe. pp. 45-55.

Small, M 2011, "Warring Traditions: Ptolemy and Strabo in the Geography of Sebastian Münster. in Z Shalev & C Burnett (eds), Ptolemy's Geography in the Renaissance. The Warburg Institute.

Small, M 2011, What was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe. in European History Quarterly. vol. 41.

Book/Film/Article review

Small, M 2014, 'Printing a Mediterranean World: Florence, Constantinople, and the Renaissance of Geography, Sean Roberts', Aestimatio, vol. 11, pp. 339-341. <http://www.ircps.org/aestimatio/11/339-341>

Small, M 2009, 'A New World for a New Nation: The Promotion of America in Early Modern England', Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 979-980.

View all publications in research portal