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Sailing the Dutch Atlantic


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


After decades of looming in the historiographical shadows of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the Dutch activities in the Atlantic world have become the subject of a considerable amount of good and original scholarship in the last fifteen years, focusing on topics as varied as the imagination of exotic alliances, the transatlantic slave trade, war and settlement, and cultural memory and heritage.

This MA Reseach Seminar is inspired by the so-called “oceanic turn”, a notion first introduced to the humanities by environmental historians that has become increasingly wide-ranging, including studies of business networks, intellectual currents, the circulation of objects and knowledge, and aquatic environments. It opts for a maritime approach to the Dutch Atlantic world between 1550 and 1750, focusing on the ocean as an integral part of Atlantic history and not just a barrier between different cultures and ethnicities. Using a wide variety of primary sources, such as travel accounts, newspapers, maps, and paintings, as well as the archives of the First and Second West India Company, we will explore the role of the Dutch – as transoceanic navigators par excellence – in early modern Atlantic history.

The class will ultimately invite students to explore the maritime nature of the Dutch Atlantic in a comparative context, to better understand the unique role of Dutch ships and sailors in the shifting balance of power in the Atlantic world, from an Iberian monopoly in the Age of Encounters to British and French domination in the Age of Revolutions.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940);
    -in the subtrack Maritime History also: the development of maritime history from the 16th century onwards; insight into recent issues in the field.
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subtrack in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective;
    -in the subtrack Maritime History also: comparative research; archive research.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. has a clear idea of the past and present state of the field of Atlantic History, and the role of the Dutch therein.
  2. (ResMA only) A clear idea of potential future directions of the field of Atlantic History, and the role of the Dutch therein.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, the student is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6500-7500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-13 (ResMA also: 14)

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-7, (ResMA also: 10

  • Two short essays (1000-1500 words), focused on histroriographical problems in the field of Atlantic history)
    measured learning objectives: 1-9, 11-12

  • Active participation during class
    measured learning objectives: 7-9 (ResMA also: 10)


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Oral presentation: 10%

  • Short essay 1: 10 %

  • Short essay 2: 10%

  • Active participation 3: %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

Readings will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.