Since the 15th century, European overseas expansion brought unprecedented commerce, exchange, and migration, but also unprecedented violence, inequality, and destruction. Today, the outcome may seem inevitable, but the causes and repercussions were complex: As Europeans set out to conquer the globe, they met with similar ambitions; as missionaries and entrepreneurs sought to change the world, Europe itself was thoroughly transformed. The expansion was based on one-sided aggression and uneven power relations, but it entailed mutual convergence and connections. This course will focus on the early modern period (roughly 1450-1800). By considering expansion as global interaction, we will explore different ways of telling a seemingly straightforward story, or rather: turn it into a multitude of stories – stories of conflict, defiance, and deception, as well as stories of collaboration, entanglement, and amalgamation. Regular and active attendance will include an informal ʻexpert’ presentation based on previously agreed reading.
A general overview can be gained from Geoffrey V. Scammell, The first Imperial age: European overseas expansion 1400-1715, London 1989. For a broad range of in-depth research, browse the Ashgate/Variorum series, ʻAn expanding world’, edited by A.J.R. Russell-Wood. To become acquainted with the postcolonial critique, start with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: postcolonial thought and historical difference, Princeton 2000.