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Unit information: Oceans & Globalisation: 1700-1945 in 2021/22

Unit name Oceans & Globalisation: 1700-1945
Unit code HISTM0100
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Vivian Kong
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Globalisation of the world economy, mass-migration of human populations, mass-exploitation of slaves and other labourers, and even the concept of futures trading and capitalism are all critically grounded in the development of maritime exchange.

The aim of the unit is to demonstrate how the maritime world has fundamentally shaped globalisation, relations of power and exploitation, and diplomacy and conflict. The unit will begin by exploring the shifting balance of the global economy toward the western powers as a result of maritime exchange, examining the beginnings of global trade and mass transfers of human population during the 18th century. In its second half, it will consider the technological innovations of the 19th century which created the first true age of global interconnectivity and communication. Advances such as the steamship and marine telegraph, which dramatically increased the flow of information and commodities around the world, whilst creating truly global labour markets, will be examined for their subsequent effects on society. The unit will end with an examination of the modern relevance of many of the themes concerned, including globalism, international relations, environmental exploitation, and human migration. Thematically, the unit explores the maritime world as an ‘open’ medium through which states and industries have historically enjoyed asymmetric control, shaping global integration accordingly. Throughout, the unit will extensively utilize primary textual sources and will also place heavy emphasis on object based research, using physical artefacts of the maritime world such as marine cabling, maritime tools and everyday items from the history of life at sea encouraging critical thinking about material change and historical experiences. The unit will be taught physically at the SS Great Britain as well as on the University campus. Multiple sessions will be hosted in the Brunel Institute, the collaborative maritime research institute of the University and the SS Great Britain, placing significant primary sources at students’ disposal, and allowing detailed exploration of its themes through specialist material. These materials, both object and documentary, will form the basis of unit assessment.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

1. Identify and analyse recent historiographical developments and longer-term trends in Maritime and Global History.

2. Analyse, synthesise and evaluate a range of primary sources using appropriate methodologies.

3. Design and frame a research question within relevant historiographies, theories and methodologies.

4. Compose an extended historical argument rooted in primary source analysis

Teaching details

1 x two-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

One 5000-word essay (100%). [ILOs 1-4].


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HISTM0100).