History 003

The Atlantic World, 1492-1888

Fall, 1999

Professor Games                   Office: ICC 610B

Department of History            X7-5751

Georgetown University           email: gamesaf@gusun.georgetown.edu

(PLEASE NOTE: email is strongly preferred to voice mail)

MW 10:15-11:05 (lectures); Th 10:15 and 11:15 (discussions)

office hours: M 11:30-1; W 1:30-3, and by appointment

"Oh, the frontier is only the difference between two ways of looking at things. Any road will take you across it if you really want to get there."--The Statue, in George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

The events and processes initiated by Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492 transformed the world of Columbus's contemporaries and shaped the world we live in today. Drawing together the histories of four continents, Europe, Africa, North America and South America, this course explores the nature and meaning of the new Atlantic world created as a consequence of the Columbian encounter. This course examines the Atlantic world through the experiences of the men and women who inhabited it from the mid-fifteenth century through approximately 1800. The Atlantic ocean itself, then, functions as a frontier, as a zone of interaction, and as a powerful connector between profoundly variant cultures. A volatile mixture of people and pathogens, of labor systems and crops, of nations, empires, and subjects, contributed to the painful and unexpected emergence of this new Atlantic community. The unforeseen and, for many, tragic consequences of this process of cultural conflict and exchange lie at the heart of this class. Topics will include the destruction and reconfiguration of indigenous societies, the labor migrations of Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans, the new world societies that developed in North and South America, independence movements, slavery, and different strategies of accommodation, resistance, and rebellion.

This course is designed to permit students to move into the second semester of world history or European Civilization. All three courses will use 1800 as the approximate mid-year mark, although this class will stray into the nineteenth century in order to address the age of Atlantic revolution and the abolition of slavery in the Americas.

Items available for purchase at the Leavey Center Bookstore:

Gary Nash and David Sweet, eds., Struggle and Survival (1981)*

Course Reader (all of the items contained in the reader will also be available individually on reserve)

* also available on reserve in Lauinger Library.

Course requirements:

midterm exam (10%)

two short papers (based entirely on common course reading: the topics will be handed out during the semester)

The first paper is worth 15% of your grade; the second paper is worth 30%

final examination (25%)

participation in weekly discussion groups (20%)


Your papers are due in class on the day indicated in the syllabus. Late papers will be graded down one full letter for each day late: arrange for extensions IN ADVANCE. It is your responsibility to keep a copy of your paper and to back up your work regularly on the computer, both as you write your paper and when you complete it. Be prepared to hand in a second copy if your first copy goes astray. If you feel you have been graded unfairly, you are invited to discuss your grade with the person who graded your paper (the professor or the teaching assistant) provided that you write a paragraph in which you explain how your paper has been unfairly evaluated and hand that paragraph, with the original paper, to the professor or teaching assistant for her or his consideration before your conference. You are always encouraged, of course, to talk with the professor and teaching assistant about your papers both while you write them and after they have been evaluated. Be scrupulous in citing your sources in all your written work. All violations of Georgetown's policies on plagiarism and academic honesty will be handled by the Honor Council. If you do not understand these policies, please talk to the professor or the teaching assistant.

Discussion sections

Attendance at discussion sections is mandatory. Family or medical emergencies are the only acceptable excuses for missing sections. If your extracurricular activities (including employment) conflict with this class, do not enroll! The benchmark for discussion grades is a B. That is, if you attend every section and participate, you will receive a B for this portion of your grade. The grade will be lowered if you miss classes or raised for exemplary participation.

You are strongly urged, moreover, to attend all lectures. No textbook exists to complement this class, and lectures will be the only opportunity for you to find a synthesis or narrative of events to provide context for the assigned reading. If you miss a lecture for any reason, it is your responsibility to procure any handouts and to borrow lecture notes from a classmate. All handouts will be available in a box across from my office (ICC 610B). Please do not ask the professor or the teaching assistant for their lecture notes.

Grading Standards

Papers and exam essays will be graded with the following general standards in mind:

An A paper: is clearly written with no grammatical lapses or major stylistic infelicities; it has an interesting and original argument which is supported consistently by well-integrated and well-chosen evidence; it demonstrates a comfortable command over the course material.

A B paper: adequately answers the assigned question or topic. It might be marred by problems of presentation, a weak or lackluster argument, or evidence that is used inconsistently or poorly.

A C paper: has some significant flaw. There is no argument; evidence is used poorly; the argument is not proven; the paper ignores obvious and important sources; the argument is unbalanced; there are some major writing problems.

A D paper: might have a good and interesting argument but makes insufficient use of evidence. A D paper might be so encumbered by grammatical lapses that it is impossible to evaluate the paper.

An F paper: disaster has struck. This paper was probably thrown together quickly with little or no attention to the assigned reading for the class or its grammatical problems might be catastrophic.

Schedule of class meetings, lecture topics, and reading assignments

September 1: Course overview and introduction: what is Atlantic history?


September 6 No class meeting (Labor Day holiday)

Establishing the Iberian Model, 1469-1570: Invasions and Adaptations

September 8 Iberian forays: Africa, the Reconquest, and the Caribbean

September 9 Discussion section: 1492 and all that: making sense of the quincentennial and Columbus

September 13 The Aztec Empire and the Conquest of Mexico

September 15 The Inca Empire and the Conquest of Peru

September 16: Discussion section: Experiencing and Surviving the Conquest

September 20 Evangelization in the New World

September 22 Conquest Societies: indigenous responses

September 23: Discussion section: Debating the Conquest and Assessing the Role of the Church

Elaboration and Competition, 1565-1670: Europe, North America, and the Caribbean

September 27 The Reformation and Counter-Reformation: the race for souls and swag

September 29 Protestant Soldiers for Christ: England enters the fray

September 30: Discussion Section: England's first colonies in Ireland and North America

October 4 The New Europes in North America: the variant styles of conquest

FIRST PAPER DUE by 5:00 in the History Department

October 6 European settlements on the North American mainland and in the Caribbean

October 7 Discussion section: English America: A world transformed

October 11 No class: Columbus Day

October 13 New World Labor: indigenous and European

October 14 Discussion section: Coerced laborers in the new world

October 18 Midterm Examination

Africa and Africans, 1400-1800

October 20 Slavery in Africa

October 21 Discussion section: When is a slave a slave?

October 25 The Atlantic Slave Trade

October 27 Sugar

October 28 Discussion section: What did the Atlantic slave trade mean for Africa and Africans?

New Worlds for All, 1650-1800

November 1 Plantation Cultures

November 3 Resistance to Enslavement

November 4: Discussion: Masters, Overseers, Slaves, and Crops

November 8 Indigenous recovery, indigenous demise

November 10 Hybrid worlds

November 11 NO DISCUSSION SECTIONS: Second paper due by 5:00 in the History Department

The Age of Imperial Crisis and Revolution, 1754-1825

November 15 The World at War

November 17 The War at Home: the New England frontier

November 18 Discussion section: War and Captivity

November 22 Imperial Reforms: Britain, Portugal, and Spain

November 24 Creole Resistance in the post-war period

November 25 No Class: Thanksgiving Holiday

November 29 The United States of America in an Atlantic context: whose revolution, whose republic?

December 1 The spread of revolution: France and Saint Domingue

December 2 Discussion section: What did the age of Atlantic Revolution mean to enslaved Americans?

December 6 The spread of revolution: Spanish America

December 8 Black and White Abolitionists in an Age of Revolution: from Sierra Leone to Emancipation, or, the Long Goodbye, 1792-1888

December 9 Discussion Section: REVIEW

December 16 Final Examination