MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Club Med? How Mediterranean Empires Went Global

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST64192
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This option explores concepts of empire, colonies and colonial exploitation from the Roman period to the late 18th c. As a study of global power in the medieval and early modern world, it focuses on the development of legal, political and theological concepts justifying domination and, to an extent, exploitation of subjugated territories. In addition, the option examines how the metropolis/centre of a realm projected economic, military and political power to its periphery, typically (but not exclusively) overseas.

Over a period of 11 weeks, this course explores concepts and techniques of empire building and colonialism from the Roman period to the late 18th c. breaking up conventional chronologies and looking at empire and colonialism in the longue durée linking Roman imperial policies to forms of medieval imperial expansion in the Mediterranean, represented for instance by the Normans or Venice, to the Atlantic expansions with new centres of gravity in Lisbon, Sevilla, Amsterdam and London.

Key themes include:
- Tools and modes of terrestrial (agricultural, tax-based, formal) and seaborne (commercial, customs-based, informal) colonisation
- Underlying concepts and discourses (legal, political, theological) supporting the projection of power from the metropolis/centre of a political realm (centre of gravity) to its periphery
- Voices of the colonizer's and the colonized in building, resisting or adapting to empire

This module is team taught and the precise content of seminar topics may vary in any given academic year according to the availability of specific teaching staff.


Using various online and library resources, MA students will familiarise themselves with forms of imperial and colonial domination in the Eastern Mediterranean and subsequently across the globe. They will critically examine primary sources on colonial encounters as well as the secondary literature in its focus on normative and economic European sources with the ultimate aim to come to a more balanced appreciation of economic and political power projected overseas and more subtle and varied power relationships on the ground.

Learning outcomes


Teaching and learning methods


The course will be supported by Blackboard. This will be used to provide relevant course materials. The essay will be submitted online via Turnitin on BB.

Video and website links via Blackboard

Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and understanding :
-Understand the importance of structures of imperial and colonial dominance and how they were organized from an economic, juridical and political perspective. Know select primary sources and be able to identify relevant texts for a given research topic.
-Identify and understand the impact of imperial and colonial domination on societies, both the dominating and the dominated parties.
-Distinguish and critically apply theories of cross-cultural encounters, empire, colonialism and early modern state building.

Intellectual skills

Intellectual skills:
-Identify and distinguish different types of data ('factual' information on experiences, concept and techniques of colonisation).
-Identify and understand patterns of constructing narratives of justification of power projection and economic exploitation.
-Critically evaluate primary texts of different genres (literary, juridical, business sources; travelogues etc.), assessing their value and using them appropriately as historical sources.

Practical skills

Practical skills :
-Essay writing.
-Seminar participation.
-Retrieval and application of material from specialist internet resources, including working with online databases.
-Understanding different individual knowledge management solutions, incl. index-card systems and personal databases.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Transferable skills and personal qualities :
-Written communication and informed discussion with peers.
-Oral presentations.
-Working with databases, critical text analysis (retrieval of data-compiling information-analysis of information to gather (applicable) insights), historical consciousness (critical reviewing of actual trends).

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 65%
Oral assessment/presentation 35%

Recommended reading

Philip D. Curtin, Cross-Cultural Trade in World History (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
Eliyahu Ashtor, Levant Trade in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press, 1983).
John J. McCusker, ed., History of world trade since 1450 (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).
Philip D. Curtin, The world and the West : the European challenge and the overseas response in the age of empire Repr ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
James Donald Tracy, The Rise of Merchant Empires Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350-1750 Repr ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 1991).
Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: a ruler between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002).
Alex Metcalfe, The Muslims of Medieval Italy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2009).
Ronny Ellenblum, Crusader Castles and Modern Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009).
C. MacEvitt, The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: rough tolerance (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Georg Christ Unit coordinator

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