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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Benjamin Schmidt
HIST 245
Seattle Campus

Exploration and Empire: Science, Art, and Power, 1300-1800

Explores key moments in the history of exploration and empire, 1300-1800. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, focuses on scientific and artistic aspects of exploration, their implications for imperialism, and legacies in the postcolonial world.

Class description

This course explores several highly important, signal moments in the history of voyaging, using a series of case studies. These include late-medieval journeys to the "Orient," as exemplified by Marco Polo; Atlantic voyages of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, pioneered by the Spanish and Portuguese; Pacific expeditions of the eighteenth century, dominated by the English and French; and, ultimately, imperial expansion to the West, which brought Americans--along with Russians, Spaniards and Britons--to the Pacific Northwest. Lectures draw on several disciplines and consider, particularly, the scientific and artistic aspects of voyaging. Scientific knowledge helped make exploration possible, while knowledge of distant places led to a revolution in science. Artistic representations of places, peoples, flora, and fauna mediated voyages and empires, shaping European perceptions of the exotic world. Art and science were critical components in the politics of expansion, and this course explores how their imprint remains today, continuing to shape postcolonial debates over the legacies of empire.

Lecture and discussion section

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

A background in European history 1300-1800 is helpful, yet not necessary.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly readings and discussion sections; written assignments; midterm and final examinations.

Class participation, written assignments, midterm examination and final examination will all figure, to varying degrees, into the final determination of grades.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Benjamin Schmidt
Date: 05/09/2013