BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Responses to Globalisation, 1450-1650

Unit code HIST32021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


Global trade is a defining feature of our world. It drives the worldwide economy, influences politics, restructures societies, and stimulates cultural contact. Yet, despite its great long-term importance, the ways individuals and communities helped to shape the early history of global trade in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries remains poorly understood. How did people around the world react to the emergence of new forms of global exchange in the early modern period? How did individuals and communities comprehend their encounter with different cultures and economies? In what ways was global trade an opportunity or a threat in localities across the world? How did globalisation effect behaviour, society and politics?


In this course, we will examine questions like these and seek to understand just how individuals, communities, states and empires were affected by and responded to globalisation. To do so we will work with sources from Africa, America, Asia and Europe to undertake in-depth explorations of specific regions as well as coming to understand the connectedness of the world economy.   Through this means we will explore the processes and economic impact of global trade and also uncover the social and cultural histories of the people whose lives were changed by it.



HIST32021 is only available to students on History-owned programmes; CLAH-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas (please check your programme structure for further details).


Available on which programme(s)?

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; Classics and Ancient History-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas.

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?


Available to students on an Erasmus programme

Yes: Subject to VSO approval

Pre/Co/Antirequisite units


Medium of language





  • To provide a broad understanding of early modern global encounters in their historical context
  • To explore the connections between economy, culture, society and politics in early modern history
  • To consider the impact of global interaction on the transformation of regions in Africa, America, Asia and Europe.
  • To explore and analyse the relationship between globalisation and the societies, cultures and economies it brought together
  • To challenge traditional understanding of globalisation as an economic process by approaching it through the lens of individuals and communities affected by it
  • To engage creatively and effectively from textual and material sources from different across the world


Indicative content:

  1. Introduction – globalisation as a concept, a process, and a web of humanity
  2. Finding local voices in global history – sources and methods
  3. Doing business with strangers – the economic behaviours of encounter
  4. Case study 1 – Gulf of Guinea
  5. Beyond empire – trading diasporas, independent actors and cross-cultural exchange
  6. Case study 2 – The Persian Gulf
  7. The law of the sea – maritime states and the regulation of global trade
  8. Case study 3 – Straits of Malacca
  9. Living on the edge – colonisation, empire and economic peripheries
  10. Case study 4 – Chesapeake Bay
  11. Imperialism, capitalism and globalisation – the origins of the modern world?

Teaching and learning methods

 1 x 3-hour lecture/seminar plus course unit office hours equivalent to 1 hour per week.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand debates surrounding the causes and consequences of globalisation in the early modern period
  • Critically assess the parallels and contrasts evident in how people in different parts of the world responded to globalisation
  • Evaluate the relationship between local experiences of globalisation with wider trends and developments

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse a range of different types of textual and material primary evidence
  • Locate discussions of source material in a wider understanding of historiography
  • Critically engage with relevant debates

Practical skills

  • Essay writing
  • Seminar participation and communication of complex ideas to a larger group
  • Analysis of evidence to establish independent interpretation
  • Autonomous research

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Present nuanced interpretations via advanced written and oral communication
  • Accomplish independent research projects
  • Work collaboratively as part of a team
  • Critical thinking and analysis

Employability skills

Students can expect to develop an important set of skills which will be highly valued in the workplace: ¿ Critical thinking and analysis ¿ An awareness of how global connectivity effects society, politics and the economy ¿ Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence ¿ To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication ¿ The ability to collaborate effectively within a team ¿ Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation, and presentation)

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Oral assessment/presentation




Primary source essay









Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Students will receive feedback electronically and through verbal discussion. 



Recommended reading

  • Bentley, Jerry H., Subrahmanyam, Sanjay and Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., eds., The Cambridge World History, vol. 6: The Construction of a Global World, 1400–1800 CE (Cambridge, 2015).
  • Conrad, Sebastian, What is Global History? (New Jersey, 2016).
  • Curtin, Philip, Cross-cultural Trade in World History (Cambridge, 1984).
  • Green, Toby, The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589 (Cambridge, 2011).
  • Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (New York, 2000).
  • Lemire, Beverly, Global Trade and the Transformation of Consumer Cultures: The Material World Remade, c. 1500–1820 (Cambridge, 2018).
  • Trivellato, Francesca, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (New Haven, 2012).
  • Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, Explorations in Connected History: Mughals and Franks (Delhi, 2004).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Edmond Smith Unit coordinator

Additional notes

The oral assessment/presentation will require students to make a 10-minute presentation, take questions, and provide their power-point presentation and notes (minimum 5 slides) for assessment.

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