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Module Details

Aims and Objectives

The module will allow students to investigate how European encounters with Asia worked at the level of exchanges of material culture.As a Special Subject this will develop students’ skills in identifying and deploying primary sources to frame and substantiate their historical analyses.This module develops the use of Warwick’s electronic sources – ECCO and the Goldsmith-Kress Collection on-line as well as other electronic repositories. It introduces students to museum collections and art collections, as well as colonial and shipping records, correspondence and travellers’ accounts.


There are no prerequisites for this Special Subject. It opens opportunities for in depth reading, understanding, research and writing on global and colonial history, especially exploring Europe’s encounter with Asia. It builds on other single themes discussed in second-year option modules ‘The Rise of Modern China (HI294)’ and ‘Galleons and Caravans: Global Connections 1300-1800 (HI293)’, and it complements the Advanced Option ‘China Encounters the Wider World (HI31C)’. This Special Subject connects senior undergraduates to a major new research area in the department centred on Asian and global history. Undergraduates will engage with a new secondary literature on global history, in new initiatives in museum displays and documents collections focussed on East-West connections.

Times & Places:

The course tutor is Professor Maxine Berg. Office Room H020. Office Hours areWednesday 4:00-5:00 (by appointment), or Thursdays: 1:00-3:00, but other times can be arranged by e-mail, or just drop by. Students are also encouraged to attend the seminars and workshops of the Global History and Culture Centre. These take place approximately three Wednesdays per term at 5:00. A programme will be distributed, and will be available on the website. Also please make use of the website:


The module explores European discovery and trade in Asian exotic and luxury commodities. Those commodities: spices, textiles, porcelain and tea, brought from South-east Asia, China and India transformed the domestic lives of Europe’s elites and ordinary people. The module emphasises the encounters and connections of Asia’s and Europe’s material cultures. It investigates how curious exotics collected on voyages of discovery became European desirables and even necessities. It looks at how the goods were traded first by Asian merchants, then by Europe’s East India Companies. It looks at how these precious goods for world trade were made, and then transported in long-distance sea voyages. It shows how the trade was organized across far-flung trading posts via ships risking storms, privateering and war. Such goods from afar became the gifts of diplomatic missions. They inspired scientific expeditions and experiments, and they entered into the European art world. The treasure fleets of discovery and encounter turned to the ships and navies of empire. The module connects older historiographies of colonialism and imperialism to new questions arising from global history. It looks to art history, the histories of collecting and display and anthropology to understand the meanings of the goods and the desires for exotic cargoes.

Teaching and Learning

The module will be taught through a combination of thematic seminar discussions, library visits and individual tutorial sessions on long essays. Students will complete either a 4,500 word long essay or a 9,000 word dissertation based on original research involving primary sources. The module does not include lectures.


Regular attendance at seminars and active participation is expected. Students are also expected to attend the special sessions set up for the course including the Library Internet Sources session. All will be expected to submit three pieces of non-assessed work. For those who do a long essay there will be two short essays and a long-essay proposal with outline and bibliography. Fully examined students will submit three short essays.

Core and Additional Reading

Uploads of and links to many of the core primary readings will be available on the module web pages:


The web pages will also contain some secondary readings not easily available in the library. Other secondary reading will be available in the library. There are also suggestions for further reading which may be used in short and long essays. Students should also make wide use of online sources which will be listed in the course booklet and further discussed at the online sources session.

Assessment Methods

i) Maximum word length for long essays (4,500) and dissertations (9,000) does not include footnotes and bibliography. There is no 10% allowance for going over this length.

ii) All second-year option modules have moved to a 50/50 model of assessment in which all students will write a 4,500 word essay and undertake a final 2 question/ 2 hour exam paper (consisting of 10 questions). This does not include European World, which continues to be assessed via a 3-hour exam.

iii) Assessment of Special Subjects and Advanced Options will also follow a 50/50 model (2 hour exam and 4,500 word essay) unless students are writing an attached Dissertation, in which case they will undertake a 3 hour exam paper and will not be permitted to write a long essay.

iv) Visiting students will be assessed via a new standard mode based on essays rather than exams:

• Term 2 - 2 x short essays due Week 5 and Week 9 of Term 1
• Term 3 – 1 short essay or exam practice paper – Week 3.
• 1 x long essay or dissertation due Week 2 of Term 3

For details of examination and assessment, please see Maximum word length for the 4,500 word long essays and the 9,000 word dissertations does not include footnotes and bibliography, and over-length essays and dissertations will be penalised.

Intended Learning Outcomes

(By the end of the module the student should be able to....) Which teaching and learning methods enable students to achieve this learning outcome? Which assessment methods will measure the achievement of this learning outcome?
Have enhanced their research, writing and communication skills.

Seminar discussions, individual research/reading and essay writing

2 examination papers (some students will substitute an assessed research paper for oneexamination paper)

Have gained an understanding of the availability, uses and limits of primary source material for historical analysis.

Have deployed electronic technologies in their learning.
Have a broad knowledge of the history of long distance trade, the East India Companies and exchange of material cultures in the period between 1601 and 1833.