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The University of Southampton
International Summer School

British Explorers and Empire Course Information

Cook's route
Cook's route

Welcome to the University of Southampton's International Summer School British Explorers and Empire course!

Course Overview


Look at maps by Hendrik Hondius (1630), Nicolaes Visscher (1658) and Samuel Dunn (1794), which are all on Wikipedia’s ‘Early world maps’ page:

Map link 1

Map link 2

Map link 3

Question to think about: How have European ideas about the rest of the world changed over time?


Watch John of Gaunt’s speech in Shakespeare’s Richard II (1597) (link below)

[You can read most of the speech here. There are some notes in red, which explain some of the words]

Question to think about: What does this speech tell us about British or English identity?


Read Jane Sampson, The British Empire, pages 52-5 [available here]

Questions to think about: Who were the people involved in the British Empire? What were their aims?

Preparation for Seminar 2 – The Land


Watch this short documentary clip on David Livingstone (13 mins) (link below). (Note: the documentary is quite old. Some of the language used in it is outdated.):

Read the opening page of the Livingstone 1871 Field Diary restoration project:

Questions to consider: After a long period of sea exploration, why did the attention of explorers turn to land? What were some of the challenges that Livingstone encountered on his travels?

In the context of Empire

Look at this map from Wikipedia for a few minutes. It shows the evolution of the British Empire over time. In particular, look at the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century.

Map link

Question to consider: What was the impact of British exploration on the size of empire and Africa?

Impact on Britain

Read this article, which talks about the return of Livingstone’s body to Britain, beginning with its arrival in Southampton:

Questions to think about: What significance can be attached to Livingstone’s reception? What can the article tell us about how empire was viewed by the British public?

Preparation for Seminar 3 – The Ice

Mountaineering and the quest to climb Everest

Please watch as much as you can of the 30 minute BBC documentary ‘Battle for the Himalayas: The Fight to Film Everest’:

Questions to think about: What fuelled the race to climb Everest? What sort of people were usually in charge of the mountaineering teams? How did technology play a part in the successes and failures of expeditions?

Other Ice explorations

Robert Falcon Scott (‘Scott of the Antarctic’) undertook two explorations of the South Pole. Read pages 16 – 19 of Scott’s diary of his expedition to the Antarctic (use the slider at the bottom of the webpage to pick the pages in the diary).

Question to think about: what are some of the differences in terms of equipment needed for exploration over different terrains?



Read the following BBC article, which looks at some aspects of how the ascent was reported.

Watch the short, 3 minute Pathé news clip ‘Everest Heroes Home’.

Read the PDF ‘Everest Conquered’ article from The Times, 2 June 1953. Also read pages 57-60 of Peter Hansen’s ‘Coronation Everest’ PDF. (Find them in Useful downloads below)

Questions to think about: How is the climbing of Everest presented to the British public?


Meet your tutors

The sessions will be taught by Dr Christopher Prior (Lecturer in 20th Century History) and Rob Joy (PhD student in History).

For further information on the postgraduate tutors please visit the Meet the tutors pages.

Useful Downloads

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