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The University of Southampton

HIST3250 Towards Empire: England and the Sea, 1450-1650 (Part 1)

Module Overview

This module is a study of the rise of England as a maritime power. For England the sea has proved to be a friend and an enemy: it has permitted exchanges of ideas, trade, and enabled cultural contacts, but also provided a highway for invasion and coastal raiding. The course examines the period 1450 to 1650, a time when England developed from a small European polity into state that was on the path to forging a global maritime empire. This module will examine how successive English governments exploited the sea. Part one will focus on war and technology and the development of the Royal Navy. It will examine shipping and ship technology as a way of exploring the role technology played in England’s gradual maritime expansion. It will also consider the evolution of naval strategy, tactics and logistical infrastructures that played an important role in developing England’s economy. Piracy and privateering will also be examined as important dimensions of English maritime expansion, especially the role they played in England’s war against Spain. It follows a thematic structure. Each week will focus on a topic through closely analysing a source(s) which will be explored through student presentations; discussion will also centre on a wider events or themes linked with the source. It will begin by asking the question: what is maritime history, and why is it important?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Concepts of maritime History
  • the development of the royal navy
  • defining piracy and the economics of piracy
  • the development of taxation to fund naval development
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and solve historical problems relating to England's growth as a maritime power.
  • Engage in independent study
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse a wide range of primary sources, appreciate the particular contexts in which those sources were produced and comment succinctly on their significance in an assessed essay and in a take home assignment in which answers will informed by a knowledge of sources
  • draw connections between different historical periods
  • identify and critically assess scholarly views and arguments
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explore how exploiting the sea permitted England's growth into a world power. Explore the role maritime communities played in England's rise a global maritime power


Topics to be covered may include: Concepts What is ‘maritime history’ and why is it an important area of study? War, Technology & Communities Ships and shipping, 1450-c.1650. Naval Organisation, Strategy and Tactics in the Late Middle Ages The Tudor Navy (including a possible trip to the Mary Rose Museum): From ‘King’s Ships’ to Royal Navy. Tudor Naval Operations: A Case Study of the Spanish Armanda, 1588. The Stuart and Cromwellian Navies and First Anglo-Dutch War. Pirates and Privateers Piracy and Privateering: Establishing Parameters. The Economics of Piracy. Late Medieval and Tudor Pirates. Piracy and Privateering and the war Against Spain. Piracy, c.1600-1650: Towards the ‘Golden Age’?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Two weekly seminars - Group work - Tutor-led guidance on the sources, on the preparation of assessed essays and gobbets (including practice session), on the conventions used in the presentation of written work. - Student-led seminars, with the module convenor acting as guide and learning facilitator - Individual consultation in person and by email about assessed work on the module. Learning activities include: - Preparatory reading for seminar discussions - Preparation of brief reports on particular questions as directed for classes - Preparing and delivering presentations - Discussion of set topics - Further reading and independent research for the essay and dissertation - Preparation and completion of module assignments Knowledge and understanding will be developed through a continuous study and analysis of primary sources. You will develop your research skills – how to find relevant material and secondary literature, how to use primary material – in groups and in consultation with the seminar tutor. Attendance of lectures, independent study and the writing of essays will further develop your intellectual skills and enable you to communicate your findings in oral presentations.

Independent Study276
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Blakemore, R.J and Murphy, E.?(2018).?The British Civil Wars at Sea, 1638-1653.?

Rodger, N.A.M?(1998).?The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649.?

Appleby, J.C?(2009).?Under the Bloody Flag: Pirates of the Tudor Age.?

Eddison, J.?(2013).?Medieval Pirates: Pirates, raiders and Privateers, 1204-1453.?

Adams, J. A?(2013).?A Maritime Archaeology of Ships: Innovation and Social Change in Medieval and Early Modern Europe.?

Andrews, K.R?(1984).?Trade, Plunder and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480-1630.?

Loades, D?(1992).?The Tudor Navy: An Administrative, Political and Military History.?



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment? (4000 words) 50%
Timed Assignment? (3000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment? (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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