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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Simon R. E. Werrett
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 seeks to provide students with an introduction to exploration and imperial expansion in the premodern world (late-medieval Europe through the onset of modernity: circa 1300-1800). It approaches its subject topically through the study of signal moments of European (or, in some cases, American) scientific and imperial exploration: case studies that range from the late-medieval Venetian journeys to the so-called Orient, as exemplified by Marco Polo, to the Atlantic voyages of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, pioneered by the Spanish and Portuguese; and from the Pacific expeditions of the eighteenth century, dominated by the English and French, to the imperial expansion into the "wild" west, which brought Americans--along with Russians, Spaniards and Britons--to the Pacific Northwest, thus ushering in the modern age of empire. Lectures offer a novel approach to the theme of exploration by drawing on several disciplines; we will consider the scientific and artistic aspects of voyaging, along with the more traditional narrative of power and expansion. Scientific knowledge--methods for finding the longitude, for example, or studies of exotic flora and fauna--helped make exploration possible; while knowledge of distant places led to a revolution in the sciences. Meanwhile, artistic strategies employed by the voyagers were equally significant. Representations of exotic places, peoples, plants, and animals, in European as well as non-European art, mediated the voyages to distant audiences, shaping their perceptions of exploration, empire, and the so-called races of the world. Art and science were critical components in the politics of Western nationalism and expansion, and this course will hope to demonstrate how their imprint remains with us today, continuing to shape and effect postcolonial debates over the legacies of empire.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lectures, Discussion Sections, Reading of Primary & Secondary Texts

Recommended preparation

This is an introductory course, so there are no prerequisites.

Class assignments and grading

Essays and mid-term and final exams based on short essays and/or key-term descriptions

Readings, to be discussed in class sections

Midterm exam 20% Final exam 30% Each essay paper 20% Section participation and attendance 10%


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.
HIST 245 Resources
Last Update by Simon R. E. Werrett
Date: 01/17/2008