Atlantic Ocean


Course Objective

• The student is able to provide a well-informed answer to the question
whether the concept of Atlantic history makes sense and is able to find
her/his way in the academic context of the Atlantic Ocean between 1500
and 1850.
• The student understands the historiographical and historical
significance of the ‘Atlantic world’ and its relationship to other
historical disciplines such as imperial history, global history,
colonial history and national history. The student is aware of
present-day issues surrounding the Atlantic Ocean and is able to
construct a critical discourse from an Atlantic perspective in matters
of migration, gender, colonization and geopolitics.
• The student is aware of the history of the Atlantic world in politics,
culture, economy and demographics and is able to situate it in a wider
• The student is able to critically assess information gathered from
primary and secondary source material and is able to connect it to the
larger historical narrative of ‘the Atlantic Ocean’

Course Content

The Atlantic Ocean is not just an ocean, it is a scientific terrain the
contours of which are determined by human interactions within a
well-defined geographical and temporal space. The study of the shared
history of this space originated after WWII and is fundamentally
different from other forms of international history writing by its focus
on people, societies and cultures, and the exchange of ideas, goods and
language within a space formed by the ‘inner sea’ that the Atlantic
Ocean becomes in Atlantic history.
The ocean connects Western and Southern Europe, the Americas and the
Caribbean and Western Africa and the growing connectivity of these
regions has shaped a new world between 1500 and 1850, on the new as well
as on the old continent. This world can be considered as ‘the Atlantic
world’ and is studied as one historical area, with one shared history
that starts somewhat before Columbus and that continued until the
Revolutionary period and the de-colonization process. It is crucial to
consider the interactions within this world as a reciprocal phenomenon
and not as a historical evolution controlled and dominated by Europeans.
A first crucial element of the academic study of the Atlantic Ocean is
the reflection on the discipline itself. What is part of ‘Atlantic
history’ and what is not? And why? Because both the genocide on the
native Americans and the slave trade have left such an imprint on the
history of the Atlantic Ocean, no study of the Atlantic can escape moral
and ethical considerations. The negative side of the Atlantic Ocean has
had a huge impact on many societies until today. A second element of
this course will address not only the history of atrocities, but also
attempt to think about ways that historians should deal with them.
A third element is about connectivity. This course will address
similarities and shared experience that often have been studied
separately. A good example is the period of Revolutions. Rather than
discussing separate French, American and Haïtian revolutions taking
place at the late eighteenth century, we will look at the concept of
‘Atlantic Revolutions’ to make connections between formative events
across the Atlantic Ocean.
A last element is concerned with those who were essential part of
interactions and connections – humans. History all too often focuses on
the winners and the big names and we will address the experiences of a
wider group of people, scientists, native Americans, Jesuits,
adventurers, sailors, Jews, enslaved Africans, explorers, women, runaway
slaves, merchants, gold- and diamond diggers and many others who often
have remained anonymous but whose experiences have shaped the Atlantic

Teaching Methods

For this course, we’ll meet for two sessions each week. One consists of
a lecture, in which we will discuss a number of classic topics related
to the Atlantic Ocean – slave trade, development of music, history of
conquest & disease, migration, piracy etc. For the other you will be
divided into smaller groups as we’ll do exercises that will vary from
debates on literature, presentations, analysis of primary sources, etc.

Method of Assessment

There will be a written exam that will assess both your knowledge as
well as your analytical skills (65%). There will also be a number of
smaller written and oral assignments (35%).

Entry Requirements

First Year HIS


Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History – Concept and Contours (Cambridge, Ma.:
Harvard University Press, 2005).
Rafe Blaufarb, The Revolutionary Atlantic. Republican Visions, 1760-1830
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Nicholas Canny & Philip Morgan, eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic
World. 1450-1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World. Britain and Spain in
America 1492-1830 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).
David Eltis & David Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).
Toyin Falola & Kevin D. Roberts, eds, The Atlantic World, 1450-2000
(Bloomington: Indian University Press, 2008).
Jack D. Greene & Philip D. Morgan, eds, Atlantic History. A Critical
Appraisal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Kwasi Konadu, Transatlantic Africa 1440-1888 (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2015).
J.R. McNeill, Mosquito Empires. Ecology and War in the Greater
Caribbean, 1620-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Gert Oostindie & Jessica V. Roitman, eds, Dutch Atlantic Connections,
1600-1800. Linking Empires, Bridging Borders (Leiden; Boston: Brill,
John K. Thornton, A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1250-1820
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Target Audience

second year BA HIS

General Information

Course Code L_GWBAGES213
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator dr. T.A.E.R. Vanneste
Examiner dr. T.A.E.R. Vanneste
Teaching Staff dr. T.A.E.R. Vanneste

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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