< HIST231 : Mapping Terra Incognita: Travel and Exploration in The Atlantic and Pacific Worlds 1492-1642

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HIST231 : Mapping Terra Incognita: Travel and Exploration in The Atlantic and Pacific Worlds 1492-1642

Level:Part II (any yr)
Learning Hours:150
Credit Points:15
Course Convenor:Professor MM Camino Maroto

Syllabus Rules

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Prior to HIST231, the student must have successfully completed:

Assessment Rules

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  • 60% Exam
  • 40% Coursework

Curriculum Design: Outline Syllabus

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This module introduces the most important journeys of exploration to the Americas and the Pacific from 1492 until 1642. While the journeys of Christopher Columbus, Pedro Fernández de Quirós, Ferdinand Magellan and Abel Tasman illustrate the 'mapping of the world' from the late 1400s to 1642, the course also focuses on the main incursions into American lands during the sixteenth century, including the conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires and the first settlements in North America. These are contextualised within the rise of mixed-race Creoles, the role played by missionaries and the development of a colonial urban culture. The course is taught through lectures and the seminars, making extensive use of films and documentaries. The module finishes with an outline of eighteenth-century voyages to the Pacific, looking at James Cook’s ‘completion’ of the world map.The following topics are studied:

  •  Introduction: Past and Present, Iciar Bollain, Tambien la lluvia/Also the Rain (2011)
  • Mapping Iberian Expansion: Christopher Columbus
  • Indigenous Cultures of 15th-century America: Aztec and Inca empires
  • Conquistadors and explorers: Cortés, Pizarro, Coronado, Orellana and Cabeza de Vaca
  • Missionaries and Philosophers: Bartolomé de las Casas and Michel de Montaigne
  • Urbanisation
  • Spices and Early Exploration of the Pacific: Magellan, Quirós and Tasman
  • Pacific exploration from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries
  • Age of Scientific Exploration: Cook

Educational Aims: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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This module aims to give students an understanding of the European expansion into what would become the colonial world. Starting with Iberian explorers, the course will trace the development of imperial ideals. These modes of understanding exploration, based on religion, commerce or scientific enquiry, will then be assessed from a contemporary perspective that takes into account the decolonising of the world in the twentieth century and the subsequent reassessment of the ‘world system’. Students will also become familiar with a range of primary and secondary materials that range from maps and archival documents to popular films. 

Educational Aims: General: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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This module aims to encourage students to develop a range of analytical, presentational and written skills. 
Students should become confident interpreting visual sources, such as maps, as well as audio-visual material, including fiction films and documentaries.


Learning Outcomes: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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On successful completion of this module students will be able to...
  • Demonstrate written and verbal knowledge of the history of imperial expansion
  • Understand and discuss some the social and cultural underpinnings of European exploration from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries
  • Evaluate the interaction between travel, scientific investigation and colonisation 
  • Demonstrate written and verbal understanding of  the cultures inhabiting the world explored by Europeans in the early modern period
  • Engage with critical thought about discovery, travel, exploration and cross-cultural engagements
  • Gain competence in analysis and interpretation of complex historical events
  • Construct historical narratives using a different range of primary and secondary sources

Learning Outcomes: General: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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On successful completion of this module students will be able to...

  • Explain coherently the results of their analyses and ideas in the context of seminar presentations and general discussion.
  • Assemble cogent, logical and relevant arguments in their written work and examination.
  • Use different materials, including books, manuscripts, maps and films, to support an argument.
  • Use effectively the VLE and develop sound criteria to scrutinise and deal with online resources.
These skills will be assessed both through submitted coursework and in examination.

Assessment: Details of Assessment

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Examination (60% of final assessment)

Students will take a 2-hour unseen exam, answering two questions, in the main summer assessment period.

Coursework (40% of final assessment): 
- One essay (2500 words) that is due at the end of the term in which the module is taught (75% of CWA). 
- Individual or Group Seminar Presentation (25% of CWA) graded according to the following criteria:


a. Content and Organisation

b. Originality

c. Presentation and delivery

d. Context and use of sources

e. Class participation and answers to questions
The department has established procedures to inform course convenors of any students in their courses who have special needs.

Curriculum Design: Single, Combined or Consortial Schemes to which the Module Contributes

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Major/combined/consortial programmes administered by History:  History; History and Philosophy; History and Religious Studies; Social History; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; Modern European History. 


Single Major/combined/consortial programmes administered by others: French Studies and History; German Studies and History; English Literature and History; History and International Relations; History and Politics; History and Music; History, Philosophy and Politics; Spanish Studies and History.
Lancaster University
LancasterLA1 4YW United Kingdom
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