The Age of Discoveries

Discipline: History
Instructor: O’Neill
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 10:45
End: 12:00
Field Work: Day 1 | Belgium Download Syllabus

This course will focus on the encounter of Europe and Europeans with the “new worlds” in the time period known as the Age of Discoveries [1400s-1600s] and on the process known as the Columbian Exchange. The outward global expansion of Europeans resulted in many things: new patterns of cultural, religious and economic diffusion, and also the interaction of different ecological systems [including flora, fauna and micro-organisms/diseases]. This phenomenon will be examined from the perspective of three themes: people’s perceptions of the natural world, the impact “discoveries” and explorations had on Europe and on the “new worlds” and the impact that the European concepts of race and gender, and “the other” had on the radical reshaping of the culture and economy of what was to them the “new worlds”. The course will be organized geographically and topically to take advantage of the unique opportunities provided by Semester at Sea. Concepts such as “ecological imperialism: the overseas migration of Western Europeans as a biological phenomenon” will emphasize the impact of the Columbian exchange on the areas we will be visiting. Through readings, discussions, lectures, films, and field trips, we will question our assumptions about “nature” in order to conceptualize environments as dynamic places shaped by both biological and cultural processes. Finally, we will take advantage of the fact that we will be sailing some of the routes taken by people, diseases, food products and technologies during the Age of Discoveries to highlight the themes and concepts of the course.

Field Work

Country: Belgium
Day: 1

Chocolate is one of the pleasures of modern life. Enjoying a chocolate bar, or a nice cup of hot chocolate are very therapeutic activities for many people. That western society has chocolate at all is a product of the Age of Discovery and its Columbian Exchange of plants and animals. Inexpensive, mass produced chocolate is a phenomenon of the mid-nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution. After reading the required articles about chocolate and the Age of Discovery, we will travel by coach to the Bruges Chocolate Museum to first tour the museum which tells the story of the transformation of cocoa into chocolate, and of the consumption of chocolate from Aztec times through to the present day. Then we will have a private lecture and demonstration by a Belgian chef who will explain the composition of different types of chocolate, and the process for making fine chocolate. In the afternoon, we will participate in a walking tour of historic Bruges, known as the 'Venice of the North'. Bruges is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as it has evolved over the centuries. As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Bruges developed cultural links to different parts of the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.