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BA Classics / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Course unit details:
Cultural Entanglements: Life and Death in Seventeenth-Century North America
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
In 1607 around one hundred men and boys sailed from England to the ‘New World’, arriving in a place that they often described as a ‘Virgin land’ ripe for English exploitation. This region of North America, however, was already well populated and home to several Indigenous communities with rich and diverse cultures, societies, and political structures. Soon after the English arrival, the first West Africans were documented in the colony of Virginia and by the mid seventeenth century slavery was fully institutionalised and codified throughout the English colonies. Throughout the century, West Africans were forcibly transported to Anglo-America where they were enslaved and made to labour on tobacco and sugar plantations. Enslaved people brought with them their knowledge systems and traditional cultures and developed a range of strategies to help them resist and survive the horrors of slavery, all of which had a lasting impact on American society.
This course explores the entangled cultural histories of those that lived in North America, either by choice or through force, in the seventeenth century. Students will be introduced to a range of primary sources, including material artefacts and archaeological survivals, that centre Indigenous and Black perspectives on early colonial history. The course will reveal the vibrancy, resilience, and influence of Indigenous and African cultures on American history, encouraging students to reconsider traditional colonial narratives that have often relegated Indigenous and Black individuals to a position of relative historical obscurity. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will explore the diverse and often conflicting cultural expectations and beliefs that shaped daily life and helped forge new societies and community identities in seventeenth-century North America.
This module is restricted to History programmes and History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).
- Introduce students to a broad range of relevant themes and historiographical debates associated with early modern American history
- Introduce students to critical concepts relating to the study of cultural history.
- Encourage students to explore beyond the disciplinary boundaries of history, borrowing methods and perspectives from across the humanities and social sciences, including anthropology, archaeology and material culture studies.
Knowledge and understanding
- Analyse the impact of Indigenous communities and Black people on the cultural, social, and economic history of seventeenth-century North America.
- Evaluate how historians can interpret the past through material and archaeological survivals.
- Understand and critique historical debates surrounding the development of English colonies in North America.
- Assess the entangled nature of early modern American cultural history.
- Critically assess and evaluate advanced historical analysis and argument.
- Analyse a variety of primary material, including texts, visual sources, material objects, and archaeological survivals.
- Understand anthropological, ethnographic, and archaeological approaches to early colonial history.
- Effective written communication skills.
- Primary source analysis, both textual and visual.
- Locating information from a range of sources, including books, journals, online databases, and online collections.
- Participating in constructive historical debates through seminar participation.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Improved oral and written communication skills.
- Team-working and collaborative skills through group presentations.
- Ability to present ideas clearly and cogently though presentations and seminar discussion.
- Ability to evaluate the quality and reliability of information.
- Experience handling and analysing artefacts in museums and special collection libraries.
- - Improved oral and written communication skills. - Team-working and collaborative skills through group presentations. - Ability to present ideas clearly and cogently though presentations and seminar discussion. - Ability to evaluate the quality and reliability of information. - Experience handling and analysing artefacts in museums and special collection libraries.
Presentation - 0%
Primary Source Analysis - 30%
Essay - 70%
|Feedback method||Formative or Summative|
|Oral feedback on group presentation||Formative|
|Written feedback on primary source analysis||Summative|
|Written feedback on essay||Summative|
|Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hours or by appointment)||Formative|
- Cronon, William, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York, 2003).
- Kopelson, Heather Miyano, ‘“One Indian and a negroe, the first thes islands ever had” Imagining the archive in Early Bermuda’, Early American Studies, 11:2 (2013), 272-313
- Mancall, Peter C., James Horn and Paul Musselwhite (eds.), Virginia 1619: Slavery and Freedom in the Making of English America (Chapel Hill, 2019).
- Morgan, Jennifer, Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (Durham, 2021).
- Pope, Peter, Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill, 2004)
- Richter, Daniel K., Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge, 2001).
- Wall Klimmerer, Robin, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Minneapolis, 2013).
- Warren, Wendy, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (New York, 2016).
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Rachel Winchcombe||Unit coordinator|