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HIST 2F90 - Money and Power in the Atlantic World, 1400-1850
Brock University 2021-22
Syllabus Version: 7 September 2021
Professors: Mike Driedger and Danny Samson
Teaching Assistant: Trudy Tattersall
Liaison Librarian: John Dingle
Contact Information: Please use the Messages tool in Sakai to contact members of the teaching team.
Times and Locations: There are no scheduled lectures or seminar meetings. However, there are weekly online readings and assignments, and you must plan time throughout each week during the academic year to work on these. It is your responsibility to keep up with assignments and stay on schedule. Unless otherwise noted, new Lessons start on Mondays at 8 am.
This course explores the practice of history through an examination of the early modern Atlantic World. We will combine an emphasis on traditional historical practices with digital research tools.Additional Description:
Take a close look at the image above. Few works of art get at so much history, so simply. William Blake, a radical Romantic artist of the late 18th century, depicts three women in mutual embrace and support, portraying an allegory of human mutuality, particularly the way Africa and America supported Europe. The illustration looks peaceful and idyllic. It is from a book about a British officer’s experience in suppressing a rebellion of African slaves in America. Not much mutuality in that event! But the book’s author, John Stedman, used his experience to speak out against slavery and against the gross exploitation of Indigenous Americans. The book, like many of its kind, was not unambiguous (you’ll look at the full picture, and read an excerpt from Stedman’s writing later in the course). Indeed, some historians have commented that the illustration speaks more to the hypocrisies of Europeans in the colonial world than it does to any actions directed at fostering genuine mutuality. But as we'll see, the world was not divided into simple, good-and-bad characters. Progressive abolitionists could sometimes be misogynistic; conservative anti-democrats could sometimes be forceful critics of empire. In history as in life, contradictions and complications abound.
Europe was very clearly “supported” by African labour and American land – that is, we can see that Europe exploited America and Africa. But Blake saw something more. He meant his illustration as an allegory for an imagined future – of what might be, not of what was. Both Blake and Stedman saw clearly that Europe benefited by grossly unequal and decidedly non-mutual relationships. Both men were particularly active in the campaign to end the slave trade. Their vision of a mutually supportive Atlantic world economy and society was utopian.
The early modern era – roughly 1400-1800 – marks the rise of the West (essentially Western Europe, with the gradual addition of America) in global history. In 1400, Arab, Turkish, and Chinese empires were far more powerful, richer, and technologically advanced than any political force in the West. By 1800, the reverse was true.
This course tracks that shift, that series of changes which brought about what we might call “the rise of the West”. That story is complex and even in this full-year course we will only scratch the surface of some of its many facets. But what we will see is that Blake, taken literally, was quite right: Europe was very much supported by Africa and America. Europe’s wealth came through many sources, but the real advances cannot even be imagined without the use of African labour and American land and resources. The Atlantic World (Europe, Africa, and the Americas) was in many ways a unified cultural and economic system, but its major players experienced that system very differently. This course explores that emergent Western dominance, with a keen eye to understanding the very different experiences that shaped it.
The course does not have fixed class times, but all students must progress through the course at roughly the same pace, week by week. The course consists of an introductory week plus five modules of varying lengths:
- Module 1. The Pre-Modern West
- Module 2. Colonial Expansion
- Module 3. Conflicting Worlds
- Module 4. Revolutions
- Module 5. The Early Liberal Era
Each module has between three and six lessons which we'll complete at the rate of one lesson per week.
This course operates in two main online locations: in your course e-textbook (where you’re reading this syllabus), and on Sakai. The e-textbook is not a traditional textbook, of course, but it is meant to function in many regards like one. In it you'll find outlines, learning outcomes, and questions for each week, as well as general guidelines for the assignments. There are also links to video introductions and screencasts, as well as links to relevant online information. Your Sakai page is your workbook. The weekly readings and other sources are there, as are the forum where you'll post your comments (like an online seminar), the messages tool, and the tools you'll use to submit your actual assignments. See the video linked in the Overview page in Sakai for Prof. Samson's tour of Sakai.
Each week’s lesson plan will follow the same structure. It will consist of the following categories:
- This week's big question (course e-textbook)
- Video introduction (if available for that week, it will be in the course e-text)
- Learning outcomes (course e-textbook)
- Questions to consider, and learning activity (course e-text, plus activities on Sakai, such as forums)
- Background (course e-textbook)
- Toolbox (course e-textbook)
- Primary sources (listed in course e-textbook, but access through Sakai)
- Secondary sources (listed in course e-textbook, but access through Sakai)
- Supplemental materials (course e-textbook)
Assignment guidelines will also generally follow a template that consists of these parts:
- Detailed instructions
- Required resources
- Deadline and submission details
Historians (i) contribute to public debates (ii) by making arguments (iii) that answer research questions (iv) using evidence analyzed according to thoughtful methods. The items on this list are examples of what you might consider learning outcomes for your overall university studies in history. Learning outcomes are meant to help the instructors and you gauge your learning and progress. Your work in this course will help you improve your knowledge, professional practice, and skills related to the abilities listed above. More particularly, you should pay attention to the following learning outcomes in your work in HIST 2F90.KNOWLEDGE:
By the end of the course a successful student will be able to...
- Describe the major developments in the early modern Atlantic world.
- Communicate ideas/arguments effectively and honestly in all course work.
- Ask good historical questions and form strong arguments that answer these questions using the best evidence we can find.
There is only one required text that you must purchase for the course. It is...
- Sonja Boon, What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2019).
- The cost is reasonable. You can buy the book online or in print. We recommend that latter. We will give you more details as the year progresses. The book is crucial for the final exam question (a take-home exam).
Here’s an important note: In 2nd-year history courses it is common to read 40 to 60 pages per week. In this course we will not assign this much in the first few weeks, but we will increase the reading load as the course progresses. See the note about workload expectations that is included in the Introductory Lesson.
This course will not work if you are not checking its online resources regularly. This includes checking this online textbook AND the Sakai Messages tool. You should use the Messages tool to write the instructors or other students. You are also welcome to "visit" the instructors via Teams; you can find out how to use Teams by going to the Sharepoint through my.brocku.ca. You may also call them by telephone. To arrange a phone or video discussion, please send an email to arrange a time.
TIP: When you write to Mike Driedger (professor for Term 1) or Danny Samson (professor for Term 2) in Sakai Messages, please make sure to choose the Instructor Role address in the drop-down address options. You will also reach Trudy Tattersall, the TA for the full year, by writing to the Instructor Role.
Note: Before you ask a question about the course, please make sure you try to answer it yourself by reading the syllabus and other course materials carefully. The instructors reserve the right to ignore frivolous messages.
* * * Remember: Make sure that you check your Sakai Messages regularly!!! * * *
Course Grade Components
10% -- module quizzes (Modules 1-4)
30% -- weekly online Forum contributions
15% -- 1st-term assignments (2 in total)
35% -- 2nd-term assignments (2 in total)
10% -- "take-home" final exam
Assignment Details***See the instructions and links at the Assignment Overview (Fall Term), and the Winter Term Assignment Overview (COMING SOON).
Forum Discussion Instructions
Sakai places you in a group of approximately 20 students. This will be your discussion group for the entire year.
Each week, everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion in their Forum. Remember that you have a limited time to complete your discussion contribution in the week’s Forum. If you do not post within the time allotted, you will not get credit for that week. Unless otherwise noted, each week’s Forum will open on Monday morning and close at the very end of the day on the Friday of that week. Plan to post at least once early in each Forum so that you and others in your group can develop a rich discussion online. You’ll all learn more this way!
You read documents every week in preparation for the discussion group, so be aware of what you need to do to prepare, when you’re expected to comment, and plan your time accordingly. Also plan to read all the previous posts for the week’s Forum before you post anything new. When we grade your work, we’ll expect that you’ve done this. The strongest posts will also show evidence that you’ve read the previous discussion for the week.
Be sure to post on time so that others have time to read, think and respond.
NOTE: We wish to encourage early posting, and we want all of you to be engaging with one another regularly in the Forum discussions.
A good basic post examines the viewpoint of the author(s), works with the evidence in the source(s), and situates the source(s) you are using as evidence in a broader framework.
People who post at least once before the end of the day on Wednesday of each week and whose posts meet the other standards for good contributions will generally earn the strongest grades.
Few of our questions for discussion in the Forums have simple, correct answers. We’re most interested in seeing all class members engage with each other in meaningful, thoughtful dialogue. Therefore, try to establish positions or arguments based on evidence in the assigned sources, rather than simply stating facts or opinions. Furthermore, each time you post you should choose one or two posts and really engage with what those people are saying:
- agree or disagree with their interpretation of evidence -- but ALSO provide further reasons for your response;
- ask for clarification based on good reasons; or
- challenge them in a friendly way to provide more examples / take their thoughts further.
How long should your posts be? Most posts should be in the range of 150 to 250 words. Sometimes, you may need to say more, others less. But generally, whatever number of words you write, you should be answering one (or more) of our questions, using evidence from that week’s sources, and engaging with your classmates.
Forum AssessmentYou are required to post each week -- and normally twice each week for the best Forum contributions and therefore the best grades. Some weeks have more activities than others, but they are all listed on the module page and in the Course Schedule so you will have plenty of time to prepare yourself for all activities.
We do recognize that life can be complicated in normal times, and these times are not so normal. Therefore, if you miss posting to the Forums for up to two weeks, we will not deduct any grades from your Forum grade. See below for the consequences of missing more than two Forums.
Because student contributions are so important for the course, your Forum participation grades will be determined on the basis of not just regular posts in the weekly discussion activities but by creating engaging, thought-provoking commentary and responses to questions that we provide, as well as by initiating new discussion threads that show creative and critical engagement with the topics.
We will provide Forum grades 5 times in the year -- after each Module. To help you understand the standards for the weekly discussions, this scale (together with the comments above) might be helpful:
- A - Thoughtful, timely and excellent contributions (at least two each week, with one of these usually in the first half of the week) that stimulate discussion and provide insightful comments with solid grounding in the sources and other students’ comments for the week.
- B or C - Effective contributions that invite comment and demonstrate some knowledge of the sources and other students’ comments. Again, most students who receive grades in the B range will post twice a week. (These are clearly on the right path, but could still be improved.)
- D - Little or no effort given to posting, and / or the contribution was divergent from the discussion and the readings, and / or the post demonstrated little effort to engage with other students’ ideas.
- F - No contribution.
Late Submission Policy:
Unless otherwise outlined, the penalties for late submission of assigned coursework are 10% of the assignment grade for the first day late and 5% per day thereafter, unless accompanied by medical documentation, or documentation of other serious reasons. See Medical Exemption Policy and the medical health certificate at
Relationship between regular online participation and grades:
Forum discussions are the heart of this course. Your grades will reflect the regularity and most especially the quality of your weekly contributions. Posts should strive to build conversations – that is, they should engage, and offer thought-provoking commentary and questions for deepening the discussions. New posts should engage with the reading material and posts from other participants, and should always bring out evidence from the readings. The point is to analyze our sources through discussion, and to build and develop the conversation with other students to that end.
Failure to participate in Forum discussions will lose you points!! Students are expected to contribute each week to all Forum discussions. Forum discussions are allocated 30 points on your final grade. Failure to contribute to more than TWO weekly forums will be penalized 1.5 out of the 30 points per late or missed week thereafter. Late Forum posts will not be accepted for credit.
We will provide you detailed instructions for Forum discussions via Sakai Messages.
(check the section on important dates in the relevant online University calendar)
- Friday, January 14, 2021, is the date by which you will be notified of 15% of your course grade.
- Friday, January 21, 2022, is the last date for withdrawal from the course without academic penalty.
The principle of academic integrity, particularly of doing one’s own work, documenting properly (including use of quotation marks, appropriate paraphrasing and referencing/citation), collaborating appropriately, and avoiding misrepresentation, is a core principle in university study. Academic misconduct is a serious offence. Students should consult Section VII, “Academic Misconduct”, in the “Academic Regulations and University Polices” entry in the Undergraduate Calendar, available at http://brocku.ca/webcal to view a fuller description of prohibited actions, and the procedures and penalties.
You will submit most of your assignments through Turnitin.com, a phrase-matching program online. See the assignment details on Sakai for more information. If you have a good, principled reason for objecting to uploading your assignments to Turnitin.com, please notify the instructors before the end of Week 3 to discuss alternative ways to submit your assignments. Alternatives will include some mechanism for you to demonstrate your adherence to the principles of academic integrity.
As part of Brock University's commitment to a respectful work and learning environment, the University will make every reasonable effort to accommodate all members of the university community with disabilities. If you require academic accommodations related to a documented disability to participate in this course, you are encouraged to contact Services for Students with Disabilities in the Student Development Centre (4th floor Schmon Tower, ex. 3240, https://brocku.ca/health-wellness-accessibility/sas/). You are also encouraged to discuss any accommodations with the instructor well in advance of due dates and scheduled assessments.
Academic Accommodation due to Religious Obligations:
Brock University acknowledges the pluralistic nature of the undergraduate and graduate communities such that accommodations will be made for students who, by reason of religious obligation, must miss an examination, test, assignment deadline, laboratory or other compulsory academic event.
Students requesting academic accommodation on the basis of religious obligation should make a formal, written request to their instructors for alternative dates and/or means of satisfying requirements.
Medical Exemption Policy:
The University requires that a student be medically examined in Health Services, or by an off- campus physician prior to an absence due to medical reasons from an exam, lab, test, quiz, seminar, assignment, etc. The Medical Certificate can be found at: https://brocku.ca/registrar/wp-content/uploads/sites/45/Medical-Certificate.pdf.
Schedule of Themes and Assignments
- See the course home page (aka, the Course at a Glance) for schedule details.
- ***See the assignments overview page (Fall Term), and the Winter Term assignment overview page for more information about the assignment choices (COMING SOON).
Your next step is to read the course introduction.
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Getting StartedProfs. Michael (Mike) Driedger and Daniel (Danny) Samson welcome you to HIST2F90! We're glad you have chosen to join us in our adventure in online learning. Please be aware that this course is designed for you to do all of your learning online on your own time. There are no scheduled classes, but you have to do regular work every week.
This course was first offered in 2015. In the video below you'll learn not just about us but also about our reasons for planning an online course long before the COVID pandemic.
Once you've read the course syllabus, take some time to look over the materials on this page. It's best to use a laptop or desktop computer to view course resources such as this online e-textbook as well as the Brock University Sakai learning management system. You can also view Sakai or this e-textbook on a smartphone or tablet. If that helps you keep up with the course, great! Keeping up is important. Just be aware that a larger screen and keyboard will help you to be able to make the best use of your time and the resources we provide.
When you go into Sakai you will notice a series of tool icons on the left-hand side of the screen. The YouTube video below is Prof. Samson's guide to getting started in Sakai. You can also find a link to this video in the Overview page in Sakai. The guide will help you navigate between the various components of the course that are not part of this online textbook. The Sakai learning management site gives you access to quizzes, assignments, a messaging system, a calendar, etc. We will make more of these options and tools available as the course progresses. Please familiarize yourself with Sakai in the first week of the course (the Week starting on the first day of classes: Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021), but be aware that more and more Sakai resources will become available as the weeks of the course progress.
For you to succeed in this course - and indeed for the course to succeed for all of you - we will all have to progress through the course on the same weekly schedule. A common schedule allows all of you to respond to one another in the weekly Forums. Therefore, while you can work mostly at your own pace within each course week, you will have to make sure that you complete each week's learning activities within the scheduled time. This is especially important for the Forums. Please plan your time well! The Course Overview (aka "Home" on the dropdown menu) and Syllabus has the main details. The Calendar in Sakai is there to help remind you of activities and deadlines (note that the Calendar in Sakai will only be available starting in the second or third week of the course, and it will be updated from time to time -- so check back on the Calendar as well as other resources on a regular basis).
Note: Unless we tell you otherwise, each course week will start on Mondays and finish on the Friday of that week. This is the time in which you have to complete each weekly Lesson and its Forum discussion contributions.
We strive to keep the structure of each Lesson the same, so that you know what to expect from week to week. With very few exceptions (such as this "Getting started" entry) each Lesson will include these headings:
- This week's big question
- Video introductions
- Learning outcomes
- Questions to consider, and learning activity
- Primary sources
- Secondary sources
- Supplemental material
This week's big questionEach lesson has a "big question" focused on that week's theme. You should use this question to help you organize your learning for the week, and also help you think in a step-by-step way about the overall course question. Recall that we have a big over-arching question for the course:
For the period between 1400 and 1850, what were the most significant factors in the rise of the liberal-capitalistic West?Each week's Big Question is what you will be discussing with other members of your Forum Group. You will use the primary and secondary sources in the Lesson to provide you with evidence as you think about and discuss the question. Good answers are based on evidence from the assigned sources!
So, the course has a Big Question, each week has its own Big Question, and each week also has a series of smaller questions. They're all connected. The smaller questions help focus our attention on facets of the weekly big questions; the weekly big questions help us to think about the the Big Question for the entire course.
For this week (Wednesday, Sept. 8, to Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 -- an unusual week, because Wednesday the 8th is the University's first day of classes) the "big question" is meant to help you introduce yourself to your Forum colleagues to each other, while also getting you to start thinking historically. The question or task for the week is:
Introduce yourself to your Forum group. Tell everyone something about your perspective on the world (i.e., where you're from, what your first "historical" memory is, and what have been the most important experiences, ideas, technologies, or social conflicts that have shaped your life).
Video introductionsThe videos are meant to help you get started with the Lesson. Watch them before you begin each Lesson.
Each week under this heading we will outline a series of benchmarks to help guide your learning. These "outcomes" are meant to help you and us evaluate whether you are learning something substantial.
The syllabus also includes a list of learning outcomes for the course as a whole. In summary, the course outcomes fall under three categories (knowledge, professional practice, and skills). At the end of this course you should have the ability to:
- Describe and explain the significance of the major developments in the early modern Atlantic world;
- Communicate ideas/arguments effectively and honestly in all course work;
- Ask good historical questions and form strong arguments that answer these questions using the best evidence you can find.
For each week of the course the learning outcomes will be much more specific. For example, by the end of this Introduction (the first course week) you should have:
- Read the syllabus and be able to answer questions about the main aspects of the course (themes, organization, and policies); and
- Read about and be able to name the 6 dimensions of historical thinking, as outlined on the Historical Thinking website.
Although you might not notice a direct connection between this week's learning outcomes and the outcomes for the course as a whole, you should keep the general outcomes from the syllabus in mind as we move through the course. In a month or two you should recognize yourself building more and more overall abilities in knowledge, professional practice and skills.
Questions to consider, and learning activities
Under this heading we will usually give you more detailed questions. These further questions are meant as elaborations on the big question for the week. Therefore, you should always keep the big question in front of you.
The questions are meant to guide not only your personal learning but also your discussions with other students in the course Forum. You should contribute to the Forum AFTER you have read and thought about all the assigned sources for the week, but you should also follow the schedule as outlined in the course syllabus and in on the Calendar. This will require that you PLAN CAREFULLY.
Every week, a "background" section will provide you with some general context for the Lesson's subject.
In addition to introducing you to the history of the early modern Atlantic world, this course is also designed to teach you more generally about the practice of history. In everyday speech we often use the word "history" to mean "the past." To learn about history at the university level, however, you need to be aware of another more advanced meaning of "history": inquiry about the past. One of the most basic questions about the past is: How do we know anything? Where does our knowledge about the past come from? You might think the answer to this basic question is that knowledge about the past comes from textbooks. But where does the knowledge in textbooks come from? The answer to this question has many parts. The short answer is that we learn about the past most fundamentally not from sources about the past but rather from sources from the past. Historians call these primary sources. Learning how to work effectively with sources from (as well as about) the past takes lots of practice.
As the course progresses, we will reveal more and more aspects to the study of history to you. The skills we will be teaching you are meant to be cumulative. This means that they build on each other. In other words, you should not think about each week's Lesson as an isolated unit but rather as one part of a larger whole. Our intention in teaching you about the practice of historical inquiry is that you will be able to apply the overall skills of inquiry to questions outside of the course.
Under this heading you learn the basic skills of historical interpretation.
This course teaches you not only about the history of certain times and places, but also about the practice of history -- about doing and making history. To practice a trade, you need tools. Under this heading we will provide you with tools or exercises that will help you improve your reading, writing, inquiring and thinking in this course -- and we hope also in your life beyond the course.
This week we will get you to acquire an overview of the principles of thinking historically. Historical thinking is a variation on critical thinking. To start learning about it, you should read the following introductions from The Historical Thinking Project (click on the links):
- The general introduction to the 6 components of historical thinking;
- The introductions to the concepts of perspective and evidence in historical thinking.
One of the purposes of the Forum exercise this week is to get you to think about your perspective as an interpreter of evidence about and from the past.
Primary sources (sources from the past)
Sources are the building materials of historical studies. You might already have a good idea about the differences between primary and secondary sources. Here's a quick refresher.Primary sources are created in the past worlds that we want to study. They take lots of forms: personal journals, travel accounts, letters, posters, and books and newspapers from the time you are investigating. In this course, most our primary sources are written/textual sources, but they can include paintings, prints, music scores, oral accounts, and archaeological remains (e.g., pottery, or even bones or DNA samples).
In most Lessons in the e-textbook, under the "Primary Sources" heading you will normally find information about and links to the required primary readings for each week. For this introductory week, however, we will not provide you with any primary materials. You can think of your memories and stories as the primary materials for the week!
Secondary sources (sources about the past)
Secondary sources are interpretations that try to make sense of past worlds. Most secondary sources you will use in history courses are modern, published texts. Usually these take the form of essays in academic journals and books about historical subjects. Although the formats that secondary sources take are less varied than is the case for primary sources, not all secondary sources take the form of printed materials. Lectures are an example, as are documentaries.
The thing that all secondary sources have in common is that they provide interpretations of evidence from the past. Think about this when you write your answers to each week's big question. You are writing your own interpretation of evidence -- your own secondary source.
Learning tip: Whenever you read a source (whether primary or secondary), always make sure you associate the main themes of the source with the author. Knowing who wrote a letter or painted a portrait or created a documentary or gave a lecture is usually a very important step for effective critical and historical thinking.
Under this heading we'll provide you with some extra notes that are significant but are not required for the course.
For this first supplemental section we'll provide you some tips on how to succeed in this course.
How to Succeed in the Course
Plan your time: To succeed at a high level in most university courses, you need devote between 6 and 9 hours of time to each course, each week. We have structured the expectations in HIST 2F90 to be more modest in the first few weeks, so that you have a chance to get used to learning in the online environment. However, the workload will increase as the course progresses, so you need to plan your time effectively and be disciplined every week. You will need to stay disciplined, of course, in all of your university courses, if you wish to succeed, but disciplined and regular work is especially crucial for success in an online course such as this one. Based on the experiences of students in other online courses, those who keep up with course work tend to do better than they might in face-to-face courses, while those who do not keep up tend to do more poorly. We would like you all to succeed.
Take responsibility for your own learning: One of the great advantages of an online course is that it offers you great flexibility in your time; one of the great disadvantages of an online course is that it’s easy to ignore. Success in this course demands that you schedule your time wisely and take responsibility for your own learning.
To be an effective and active learner we expect that you will:
- Check Sakai regularly (including Messages and the Calendar);
- Make sure that you read all available resources thoughtfully and carefully;
- Review readings and materials thoughtfully and reflectively before you make contributions to each week's Forum;
- Be self-motivated and self-directed rather than passive;
- Manage your time effectively;
- Troubleshoot problems rather than simply waiting to be told what to do;
- Keep records of your research and learning (this includes all essay notes and drafts and copies for assignments).
Reminder: Starting on Wednesday the 8th (2021) starting at 8 am it'll be time for you to start introducing yourselves to each other in the Sakai Forum. See the instructions above (in the section "This week's big question") for more details.