Department of History
English exploration and colonization occurred within the context of European history. It is not an “American” story. Simultaneously, however, those explorers and colonists encountered new ways of life and new peoples. In the process all the players transformed and were transformed. This program combines two thematic courses to fully situate the students in both European precedents and colonial transformations. It explores how European (especially English) society functioned, and it examines how it was transformed in the New World. It does so not only by examining the primary accounts and documents associated with early colonization, by also by examining the theme of violence in both the old and new worlds. How did violence function in the old world versus the new? What role did violence play in ordering society and then disordering it to create room for transformations?
The students in this Burch Field Seminar will begin by exploring the many kinds of violence that existed in Europe and England, from domestic abuse to village “skimmingtons” to political riots and rebellions, to international war. This will include trips to key sites in England where we can examine the unfolding of collective violent behavior and understand how societies are shaped by people in relationship to place. Simultaneously, we will learn how to conduct research in early modern materials, learning how to use archival, edited, and online sources, up to and including learning 16th-century English paleography. We will then turn to the nature, ideology, and process of the colonial project, both in Ireland and across the sea in North America. This section of the course will rely heavily on primary sources, exploring both the English and Native American experience. Visits to key resources in London (the Maritime Museum, the British Library, and the National Archives) as well as more distant sites at Plymouth and in Munster will be integrated into this aspect of the course. Finally, we will return to the theme of violence, now examining the continuities and transformations of violence in the New World. At this point in the class students will also begin research projects examining a specific case study of collective violence, using archival and secondary materials.