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Treasures of the Sea: New Perspectives on Maritime History and Maritime Archeology


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


Maritime historians and archeologists seek to interpret the way in which people associated with the sea lived in past times. They hope to add to our knowledge and understanding of people’s relationship with the sea by providing social, economic, cultural and technological information. Yet both disciplines have a slighty different approach and they utilize different sources. This course considers maritime archeology’s relationship with history.
To a maritime archaeologist every excavated wreck is a treasure. Each find tells a story and provides us with objective tangible evidence of the way people lived long ago. Sunken ships are like time capsules and they are associated with our maritime history of trade, travelling, expansion and warfare.
Research in primary sources can contribute to expand and diversify the context in which shipwrecks and their material culture are viewed. Although subjective sources, they are of great importance to complete the picture of a wreck in its archaeological and historic context and people’s changing attitude towards wrecking, exploitation, rescue and saving lives.
Students discuss different theoretical and methodological perspectives and the pros and cons of multidisciplinary research. Forming a part of the Dutch maritime programme of the Cultural Heritage Agency (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed) students collect and analyse archival sources of a selection of Dutch ships that used to sail the oceans. The aim is to publish theinformation online in the Wrecks In Situ database and the Wrecks in Documents database, combining maritime archaeological information and historical knowledge.

Course objectives

General learning objectives
The student has acquired:

    1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. 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;
    1. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
    1. 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;
    1. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
    1. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations 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 globalization (in particular during the period 1200-1940);
    • in the subspecialisation Maritime History also: the development of maritime history from the 16th century onwards; insight into recent issues in the field.
    1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation 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 subspecialisation Maritime History also: comparative research; archive research.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar
The student has gained:

    1. Knowledge of, and insight into, the historiographical debates of maritime history and maritime archeology;
    1. Empirical research from a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective;
    1. Working with a large variety of archival sources, collections of newspapers and literature;
    1. Insight into Dutch shipping (disasters) and the increasing global maritime network.
    1. (Res MA only): Innovative insights into Dutch shipping and the increasing global maritime network, as shown in a paper based on more extensive archival research or more extensive research based on edited primary sources.


See Timetable and deadlines History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours

  • Class attendance: 26 hours

  • General literature and assignments: 60 hours

  • Presentation: 8 hours

  • Research and writing paper in English or Dutch: 186 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 10-15 (ResMa also: 9, 16)

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7

  • Assignment 1: essay theoretical and methodological perspectives of history and archeology
    Measured learning objectives: 11-12

  • Assignment 2: essay the culture of wrecking and rescue
    Measured learning objectives: 4, 13

  • Assignment 3: heuristics
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4

Written paper: 70 %
Oral presentation: 10 %
Class participation: 10%
Assignments: 10%

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.

Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline

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


Blackboard is used for information, literature and communication

Reading list

  • Articles (in Dutch and English) will be avaible via Blackboard or online via UB catalogue. The list will be distributed at the first meeting.


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


mw. Dr. A.M.C. van Dissell


Please note all primary sources are in Dutch. Students will visit The National Depot for Ship Archaeology in Lelystad.