Seas, Peoples, and Empires

Mo 1:00PM - 3:25PM / 3501 Wesley W Posvar Hall / CRN 30069

This course focuses on interactions between seas, peoples, and empires in historical and comparative contexts. Using maritime history as its point of departure, the course explores the multiple ways in which contact with the sea shaped the lives of peoples and empires across the world. The course opens with a critical engagement with the categories of ‘seas’, ‘continents’, ‘seashores’, ‘empires’ and their relationships to human communities. From there, it shifts to examine four major basins around which empires and peoples have interacted and evolved through history. Beginning with Braudel’s pioneering regional study of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, the course moves then into the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. In each of these contexts, students will consider how the lives of people across social hierarchies were mediated through the interpenetration of empires and maritime regions. How did imperial officials, explorers, colonial settlers, slaves, merchants, sailors, fishermen, and pirates negotiate their encounter with the maritime environment – wind, sea, and shore? How did they influence those communities the sea lanes brought them into contact with, and how were their own lives influenced in turn? Alongside an exploration of these questions, the course also considers the extent to which enclosed maritime worlds make sense historically – as the voluminous literature on specific basins suggest that they do – and if so, what distinguished one such world from that of another? Students will explore these lines of inquiry through readings that concentrate predominantly, though not exclusively, on the early modern and modern periods.

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Pernille Roege

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Course Category

Category B: Disciplines and Intellectual Movements

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