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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

The student has acquired:

  • 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 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: 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 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
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 6 x 2 = 12 h

  • Practical work: Reading the literature, preparing one presentation, writing short assignments, final essay: 268 hours

Assessment method


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

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

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

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


  • Essay: 50%

  • Weekly assignments: 40%

  • 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 sufficent.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Blackboard.


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:

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

Reading list

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

  • 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).

  • Clare Anderson, Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012).

  • 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 in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Suze Zijlstra