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Maritime treasures. Diving into maritime history and archeology


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students. Passive command of the Dutch language is required.


Maritime historians and archaeologists 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 slightly 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 and local finds are like time capsules and they are associated with our maritime history of trade, seafaring communities, travelling, expansion and warfare. This MA research seminar explores how the tangible maritime treasures and cultural heritage can be used alongside handwritten and printed sources to study Dutch shipping, combining local maritime activities and global maritime networks (1750-1950).
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 ship in its society and the wreck in its archaeological and historic (maritime) context.
Students discuss different theoretical and methodological perspectives and the pros and cons of interdisciplinary research. The aim is to investigate a geographic area from historical and archaeological sources combined. The students will need to write a short biography of a city or village from archaeological resources that have been identified or expected, and archival and other written resources, maps, iconography, etc. The research needs to focus on the maritime character of the area.
This course will be given in cooperation with drs. Martijn Manders, lecturer Maritime Archeology, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University.

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

  • 11) 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 globalisation (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.

  • 12) 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:

  • 13) Knowledge of, and insight into, the historiographical debates of maritime history and maritime archeology;

  • 14) Empirical research from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective;

  • 15) Working with a large variety of archival sources, archeological finds and literature;

  • 16) Insight into Dutch shipping, combining local maritime activities and global maritime networks.

  • 17) ResMA only – Innovative insights into Dutch shipping, combining local maritime activities and global maritime networks, as shown in a paper based on more extensive archival and archaeological research or more extensive interdisciplinary research based on edited primary sources.


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: 11 x 2h + 1 excursion x 4h = 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 46 hours

  • Assignments (weekly assignments and oral presentation): 36 hours
    *Tutoring: 2 hours

  • Writing a paper (including finding literature and primary sources): 170 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-16 (ResMa also: 10, 17)

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-9

  • Assignment 1: essay theoretical and methodological perspectives of maritime history and archeology Measured learning objectives: 11-14

  • Assignment 2: essay on the maritime history of a town, village or city, based on the combined historical and archaeological (re)sources

  • Measured learning objectives: 11-14, 16*

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


Written paper: 70%
Oral presentation: 10 %
Assignments and class participation: 20 %

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.

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Dissemination of course information

  • Communication with the student group

Reading list

Reading list and weekly schedule will be announced in class and/or made available on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. A.M.C. van Dissel


Please note all primary sources are in Dutch. There will be one excursion to a relevant place that will be determined in a later stage.