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The University of Southampton

HIST2051 The British Atlantic World

Module Overview

This module focuses on the period between about 1600 and 1800, allowing you to explore the development of the British Empire in the Americas from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 up until the American Revolution and its aftermath. The module takes a broad look at the British colonies in the Americas from Barbados in the south to Newfoundland in the north, examining the development of these colonies and the Atlantic system of which they were part.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The development of British colonies in the Americas
  • The economic, social and cultural linkages between colonies in the Americas, Europe and Africa
  • The cultural transformations and continuities associated with migrations from Europe and Africa to the New World
  • The diversity of British settlements in the Americas and the different political choices of colonists during the period of the American Revolution
  • Historiographical debates related to the study of the British Atlantic world
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and describe the key characteristics of British settlements in the New World
  • Discuss and identify differences over and time and between settlements in British America
  • Analyse the importance of cultural change and continuity for migrants to colonies in British America
  • Define and explain the concept of Atlantic history
  • Engage with debates about the development and disintegration of the British Atlantic world
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Research: demonstrate that you are able to engage in a programme of independent reading guided by the module convener
  • Analyse: think analytically about the material you have located and read
  • Communicate: share your thoughts about your reading in writing, constructing arguments based on evidence.
  • Manage your own learning and your time effectively, meeting deadlines.


Topics may include, but are not limited to: - Inheritance, experience and the character of colonial British America - Atlantic connections - Reasons for colonization - Motives for migration - Patterns of settlement - New England, the Chesapeake and the Caribbean - Native Americans and Europeans - Cultural continuity and change - Africans, Europeans and colonial slavery - The American Revolution

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods • Lectures • Seminars • Individual consultation on essays Learning activities - Preparatory reading for class discussions - Oral presentations - Group work in class - Analysis of primary sources You will use reading lists provided by the module convener to guide your preparation for weekly seminars. You will be expected to make contributions to seminar discussions based on your preparatory reading.

Independent Study260
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Steele, I. K. (1986). The English Atlantic, 1675-1740: An Exploration of Communication and Community. 

Greene, J. (1988). Pursuits of Happiness: the Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture. 

Walvin, J (1993). Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery. 

Bailyn, B. (2005). Atlantic History: Concept and Contours. 

Morgan, E. S. (1980). American Slavery-American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. 

Bailyn, B. and Morgan, P. (1991). Strangers Within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire. 

Thornton, J. (1998). Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400 – 1800. 

Armitage, D. and Braddick, M. (eds) (2002). The British Atlantic World, 1500 – 1800. 

Hancock, D. (1995). Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735-1785. 

O’Shaughnessy, A. J. (2002). An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean. 

Burnard, T. (2004). Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: The Anglo-Jamaican World of Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves, 1750 – 1786. 


Assessment Strategy

Formative assessment: - Oral presentations - Group work in class The preparatory reading of secondary literature will help you acquire basic knowledge. The oral presentations will involve the analysis of primary sources, secondary literature and historiographical debates related to the seminar topic, helping you to develop your critical thinking. In groups, you will practice analysis of primary sources. In your essays you will demonstrate your capacity to use primary sources and make connections between a source and its context. You will also demonstrate your knowledge of broader issues and your ability to sustain a critical analysis of the set topics.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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