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Colonial encounters


Admission requirements

Degree students (including Dutch BA graduates): BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


This course will discuss the European invasion and colonisation of the Americas presenting and comparing specific case studies from the Caribbean, during the 15th through 18th centuries.
The course combines and contrasts the results of historical and archaeological investigations but also incorporates pertinent ethnohistorical case studies.
After presenting the basic informative referential frames, we wish to analyse the different models employed by the diverse European powers (Spanish, English, French and Dutch) to dominate the New World autochthones. Historical interpretations will allow us to discuss the general panorama of the colonial systems emerging from the multifarious interactions between the Old World newcomers and the New World locals.

Broad historical-archaeological approach will allow us to focus on certain specific case studies, such as: early interactions between the Amerindians, Spanish and Africans involved in pearl fishery on Cubagua Island (the town of Nueva Cadiz, 1528); Spanish, Amerindian and Dutch interactions during the European quest for salt in the Caribbean (late 16th/early 17th century); and Amerindian, African and Amerindian interactions in the French Caribbean (17th-18th century).

Every class will consist of a lecture, a discussion about the assigned literature, and a presentation given by the students (scheduled for the second part of the block). Students will write a final paper further exploring one of the course topics and using mainly the literature assigned for the course.

RMA-students will be asked to situate the content of their essay into a broader socio-cultural, methodological and theoretical context of study.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • Ability to critically assess and meaningfully interconnect the archaeological, historical, and ethnographical data related to early colonial encounters between the Amerindians and the Europeans in the Caribbean and northern South American macroregions;

  • Ability to critically assess current research and theoretical literature on colonialism, especially with relation to the above-mentioned macro-regions;

  • Ability to identify different colonial mechanisms put to work by diverse colonial powers in the regions under study and trace their long-lasting effects on local populations;

  • Ability to identify and understand autochthonous responses to the colonial power in the studied regions;

  • Improving skills in critical reading of pertinent academic texts and abstracting from them synthetic points for further discussions on-line and in class;

  • Ability to select a research topic, compile relevant literature, and create and present in class a PowerPoint presentation, showing the ability to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards;

  • Improving writing skills while working on a paper related to a specific research topic and aiming at critical interlocking of the relevant literature and the information provided during the course.

For RMA students:

  • Acquisition of skills in writing a research paper drawing from a relatively rich number of bibliographic sources and linking the specific data set to an updated theoretical and methodological approach to a broad interregional context;

  • Ability to lead a discussion after the presentation, stimulating an active exchange and discussion of ideas;

  • Ability to contribute with critical and constructive ideas during discussions in class, as well as in on-line posts.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar lectures;

  • Active discussions on the critical analysis of the literature;

  • Presentations made by small teams of students.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 300 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Essay of 2,000 words (1 ects);

  • 20 hours of practical work for preparing the presentation (1 ects).

Assessment method

  • Active participation during class (15%);

  • Discussion points (15%);

  • Final essay (max. 2,500 words) (40%);

  • PowerPoint presentation (30%).

There are strict weekly deadlines for the submission of the discussion points on BlackBoard and for the presentations (the schedule of the presentations will be arranged in due time).

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

The reading list includes various sources, monographs and articles, which will be closely related to the subsequent topics of the course and assigned in advance for every class. The students will have to identify by themselves (library/internet search) the literature necessary for the preparation of the presentations and for the final essay.

All information related to the assignments and literature will be posted on BlackBoard.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudents is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact dr. A.T. Antczak.