nl en

Portals of Globalization: Exchanging Money, Goods and Ideas in Early Modern Port Cities (1500-1800)


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


From the 16th to the 19th century, European oceanic expansion opened new avenues for world trade, as previously disconnected regions, maritime strips and continents, slowly but steadily, started to exchange goods, capital, people and ideas. These exchanges and trading flows gravitated towards port-cities, which were at the fringe of both production outlets, staple markets and cultural and technological centres.
Recent scholarship has revisited these riverine and maritime urban spaces and defined them as “portals of globalization”. Cities such as Antwerp, Amsterdam or Hamburg, but also Lisbon, Livorno, or even Orsu on the Gold Coast, Batavia and Manila, to name but a few, are good examples of these kinds of places.

The definition of these portals included physical locations and infrastructures, such as the harbours, shipyards, warehouses and markets, but also institutions and political abstractions, such as citizenship rights, contractual enforcement and legal upholding by courts. From the stand-point of the men and women who lived and traded with these portals of globalization, these cities can be seen as hubs of entrepreneurship, job-markets and even religious and political safe havens.

This course answers two inter-related questions: To what extent was the establishment and intensification of commercial, military and cultural engagements between different continents linked to port-cities of long distance trade? And, how did the development of exchanges between distant regions and markets across three centuries impact different port-cities and the way they interacted with an ever globalizing world?

More than assessing the volume of the economic transactions attached to these port cities, this seminar will mainly focus on the agents and networks behind the exchanges that were launched, organized and brought to fruition in portals of globalization, not only in Western Europe, but also the Levant, Asia and the Atlantic World.

In a nutshell, this course will allow students of both socio-economic history as well as global and colonial history to better understand how the world became increasingly connected, interdependent and how these global connections shaped the economic, political and cultural life of urban spaces with a trading vocation.

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, 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

  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 Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence: the manner in which migrations (of people, goods and ideas) between and within states have led to shifts (in cohesion, ethnic composition, policies, imaging, culture, and power relations) in the period 1600-2000, with a focus on (urban) networks (within and across borders);
    • in the subspecialisation Economic History also: the origin and outcomes of the Great Divergence, developments in political economy since ca 1600, increasing global interdependence throughout the centuries, the development of global governance in the twentieth century, as well as the most important debates in recent Economic History;
    • 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 1500-1800).
  2. 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 Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence: the interdisciplinary approach (application of theories and methods from social sciences), the comparative perspective (diachronic and synchronic) and working with a large variety of primary sources;
    • in the subspecialisation Economic History also: the application of economic concepts, research methods or models; insight into the argumentation of current debates;
    • in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. Gains knowledge and insight into what early modern portals of globalizations were and why they played such an crucial role in the development of the world economy;
  2. Develops a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the main historical debates concerning portals of globalization;
  3. Assimilates key concepts related to the topic, such as: trading-partnership, social space, networks, diasporas, cross-cultural exchanges commodity chains, port city, emporium;
    16 (ResMA only): Develops the ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources; the ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates; and acquires knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialization.


The timetable is available on the MA History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 13 sessions (2 hours weekly): 26 hours

  • Compulsory literature: 70 hours

  • Specific literature (including oral presentation): 50 hours

  • Research and reading literature for paper: 100 hours

  • Writing a paper: 35 hours

Assessment method

  • Written essay (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 13-16

  • Oral presentation and participation in class discussions
    Measured learning objectives: 4, 5, 7, 8

  • Assignment 1 (Feedback session)
    Measured learning objectives: 9-10

  • Assignment 2 (Weekly reflection)
    Measured learning objectives: 6-7


Written essay: 60 %
Oral presentation: 15%
Assignment 1 (feedback): 15%
Assignment 2 (weekly reflection): 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.


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


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Communication purposes

  • Providing students with possible powerpoints

Reading list

  • Weiss, Holger, Ports of Globalisation, Places of Creolisation. Nordic Possessions in the Atlantic World during the Era of the Slave Trade, Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016

  • Antunes, Cátia, Globalization in the Early Modern Period: The Economic Relationship between Amsterdam and Lisbon, 1640-1705, Amsterdam: Aksant, 2004.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Edgar Pereira
Kaarle Wirta


The compulsory literature needs to be read before week 2 of the course.