HIST 1986 Disasters!: A History of Colonial Failures in the Atlantic World, 1450-1750

March 23, 2021

HIST 1986  Disasters!: A History of Colonial Failures in the Atlantic World, 1450-1750 (HA-AS, HST-AS) (HB) (HNA)

Tuesday and Thursday: 11:25-12:40

Professor Casey Schmitt

This course provides an overview of disastrous attempts at colonization in the Americas from ca. 1500 through ca. 1760. Over thirteen weeks, we will engage with the question of why some attempts at colonization failed and why some succeeded. We will also explore other early modern failures, from bankrupt monopoly trade companies to ill-fated buccaneer communities and entire cities destroyed by earthquakes and hurricanes. Exploring failures, rather than successes, will help students understand the contingent process of colonial expansion as well as the roles of Indigenous dispossession, African slavery, and inter-imperial trade networks to the success or failure of early modern colonies. Over the course of the semester, my lectures will cover broad themes in failed enterprises, while students will read several monographs and primary-source collections on specific disasters. Some central questions include: Why did some colonies fail and other thrived? What role did social factors like gender, race, and class play in colonial failures? What can we learn about colonialism and imperialism through a focus on when those processes ended in disasters?

Theodore de Bry from Wikimedia Commons