Between 1450 and 1850, the Atlantic Ocean facilitated world-historical encounters between the peoples of Eastern and Western Europe, North and West Africa, and the Americas. Our course will trace five major Atlantic networks formed by winds and currents, mariners and merchants, princes and pirates, free and forced migrants:
1. Baltic Trades that exchanged Russian grain and naval stores for Western manufactures and tropical luxuries;
2. the re-routing of Ghanaian gold from the camel caravans of Morocco to the crusader caravels of Portugal;
3. the development of the English plantation system, which failed in Ireland but triumphed in Barbados;
4. the sugar (or coffee) -and-slave nexus of Northwestern Europe, West Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean; and
5. the Spanish armadas that ferried Andean silver via Havana to Cadiz—and the wars and debts that propelled it up the Spanish Road to Antwerp and beyond.
These networks had profound economic, demographic, environmental, political, and cultural consequences for the peoples and places at each node. And they encouraged—often ironically—the humanism and individualism, capitalism and consumerism, militarization and bureaucratization that now define the modern world.
As we retrace these networks on our voyage, we will analyze the significance of three of them in three five-page essays, drawing upon lectures, readings, and our observations in port.
Field WorkCountry: Barbados
Day: 3 - Monday, 24 November
On this Field Lab, we will visit a number of sites significant to the development of Atlantic economies and cultures, as they relate especially to sugar and slavery on Barbados between 1625 and 1833. Academic Objectives: During this Field Lab, we will study the physical and cultural legacies of the Atlantic slave trade in contemporary Barbados, and facilitate a diverse range of comparative observations with other ports on our itinerary. We will pay special attention to three overarching themes or questions:
- Cross-cultural Connections: In what ways did interactions between our ports of call shape their political institutions, cultural norms, aesthetic forms, demographic patterns, or physical environments?
- Collective Memory: How have societies memorialized significant, triumphant, or traumatic moments in the history of the Atlantic World?
- Human Development: To what extent do the Atlantic networks which emerged between c.1250 and 1850 account for divergences in standards of socioeconomic well-being and human rights?