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Navigating History: New Perspectives on Maritime History


Admission requirements

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


Maritime history encompasses humankind’s relationships to the seas and oceans of the world. It is a heterogeneous research field which brings a variety of research perspectives together: shipping, nautical science, cartography, warfare at sea, overseas trade, exploration and encounters, port communities, the steam revolution, containerization, maritime labor market and seafaring culture are some of the main subjects. In the past two decades maritime history has enjoyed a real renaissance. Besides economic, political and nautical themes, there is a new attention to social and cultural phenomena and the relation between maritime and global history, and between maritime history and cultural heritage institutions. This literature seminar focuses on recent scholarly views and insights in the field of maritime history.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 2) 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;

  • 3) 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;

  • 4) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 5) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 6) 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 subspecialisation Maritime History: the development of maritime history from the 16th century onwards; insight into recent issues in the field.

  • 7) (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  • 8) is able to assess, discuss and criticize recent scholarship in the field of Maritime History, and understand the relative position of individual authors and monographs within this field.

  • 9) is able to write clear and concise book reports, summarizing interpretations of a substantial amount of reading into a relatively short review.

  • 10) is able to discuss the interaction between the fields of Maritime History and Colonial and Global History.


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: 7 x 2h = 14h

  • Practical work: Reading the literature, preparing one presentation, writing short AQCI assignments, final essay: 266 hours

Assessment method


  • Essay, 3000 words
    Measured learning objectives: 1-3, 6, 8-10 (ResMA also 5 & 7)

  • AQCI Assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4, 6, 8 (ResMA also 5 & 7)

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1-3, 6, 8 (ResMA also 5)

  • Active participation in class discussions
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4 (ResMA also 5)


Written paper/essay: 60%
Weekly assignments (AQCI): 30%
Presentation and class participation: 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, one or more of the written assignments is/are 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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • the submission of assignments and the dissemination of the lecturers’ comments on the assignments (after class).

Reading list

  • Richard Harding, Modern Naval History. Debates and Prospects (Londen: Bloomsbury, 2016).

  • David Armitage, Alison Bashford, and Sujit Sivasundaram (eds.), Oceanic Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

  • Sowande' M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

  • W. Jeffrey Bolster, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (Cambridge MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012).

  • Helen Doe, Enterprising Women and Shipping in the Nineteenth Century (Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2009).

  • Michael Miller, Europe and the Maritime World: A Twentieth-Century History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

  • One or more introductory essays.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. General information about uSis is available.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Suze Zijlstra