Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Visual and Material Cultures of the Spanish Empire (HI2C8)


Tutor: Dr Adrianna Catena
Office: H346, Humanities Building
Term-Time Office Hours: Thursdays 2:30- 4:30pm
Seminars: Thursdays 12-2pm, H103

Module description

This module introduces students to the visual and material culture of the early modern Iberian World. Drawing on a wide range of material objects and visual expressions, we will pay close attention to processes of conquest and colonisation, expansion and encounter – global interactions, transfers, and exchanges. We will discuss historiographical and methodological approaches to the study of visual and material culture, and consider how we can critically assess images and ‘things’ as historical evidence. What insights can these sources provide into the social, cultural, political, economic, and religious histories of Spain and its Empire?

Emphasis will be placed on understanding how things were made, circulated, displayed, and reproduced – and how this knowledge can inform our analysis of the sources. Students will also reflect on theories of vision and visuality. Each session will explore a key theme in Iberian history, through a range of images and objects – Mexican feather work, Japanese folding screens (byobu), books and herbariums from Scientific Expeditions, court portraiture, urban architecture, maps, fashions, and textiles.

This second-year undergraduate 15 CATS module has no prerequisite modules and runs for ten weeks in the autumn term only. By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Understand some major themes and questions in the social and cultural history of the Iberian world, between 1500 and 1800.
  • Understand key theories and practices in the historical study of visual and material culture.
  • Apply these methodologies to the critical assessment of images and objects as primary sources.
  • Engage critically with diverse forms of visual and material expression.
  • Acquire enhanced historical, art historical, and writing skills .


Coca bag