Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2971: Regions and Peoples in the Atlantic Isles and North America 1500-1800

Department: History

HIST2971: Regions and Peoples in the Atlantic Isles and North America 1500-1800

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Introduce students to the ways in which distinct peoples interacted in regional settings in North-West Europe and North America over the 17th and 18th centuries, and how the study of interactions in regional settings offers both a historical explanation for developments and a means of overcoming colonial perspectives on the past.
  • Introduce students to the histories of distinct peoples occupying the Atlantic Isles of North-West Europe (traditionally known as the British Isles), and North America, from circa 1600 to 1800, analysing the formation of distinctive regions through the interactions of Europeans, Native Americans and African Americans.
  • Understand the history of distinctive social and economic relations in these regions in the wider contexts of North-West Europe, the Americas and West Africa, exploring the role and agency of indigenous people, people of African descent, and people of European descent, especially through regional interactions involved in trade, settler colonialism, and the enslavement of labour, the creation of political, urban and educational institutions, and modes of resistance to power structures.
  • Allow students to critically analyse the complex relationship between various social groups in the regions of the Atlantic Isles and Atlantic North America, and to engage with the concept of regions as an historical perspective, whereby the study of peoples and regions is one means by which to decolonise historical perspectives
  • Give students the opportunity to work with different forms of historical evidence - including autobiography, literary accounts, printed sources, visual representations, and material evidence (from excavation, standing buildings and surviving artefacts) - in an environment designed to foster a critical awareness of varied primary source materials.
  • Contribute towards the achievement of the Department's generic Aims for study at Level 2.


  • The history of North America in the 17th and 18th centuries has traditionally been studied as the ‘thirteen colonies’ leading to the formation of the USA. This module focuses on the interactions of peoples in North America through a regional approach, to better understand the ways in which indigenous peoples, European migrants and settlers, and peoples of African descent, interacted in the new economic and social realities of 17th and 18th Century North America.
  • This module studies the ways in which regions formed in North America, and the ways in which regions of North-West Europe. (especially in the Atlantic Isles of Britain and Ireland) were transformed through overseas colonialism and ‘internal colonialism’.
  • We will explore the processes of free and captive migration, the experience of enslavement, settler colonialism, plantations, new port cities, new industries in America and Europe, and changing patterns of interaction between indigenous, European and African people in North America. This module addresses the histories of race and class in North America and Britain, while seeking to ‘decolonise’ historical perspectives by taking a regional approach that encompasses the agency of all peoples.
  • This course seeks to analyse the complex historical relationships involved in the economy and culture of particular regions, and the role of categories of race, class and gender in regional context
  • The geographical focus is on regions in North America and North-West Europe, and their relationship to regional dynamics in West Africa.
  • We will analyse the use of a wide variety of sources, such as maps, documents and printed sources, as well as architectural and archaeological evidence.
  • Students will gain an understanding of the development of regions in North America and North-West Europe, and West Africa, as well as an understanding of the changing historiographical approaches over the last fifty years to a subject previously defined as colonial history.
  • The course contributes to the decolonisation of historical perspectives, to achieve a fuller historical understanding of the agency of all peoples involved in this history.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Have a subject specific knowledge relating to the development of society in British North America from circa 1600 to 1776.
  • Understand and appreciate the significance of shifts in historiography on this topic.
  • Understand the ways in which documentary and material evidence on this topic have been interpreted by historians and historical archaeologists.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Building on and developing skills gained at Level 1
  • Deepening and extending historical understanding through focused, concentrated modules
  • Developing precision, depth of understanding, and conceptual awareness.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative coursework will test students' ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succinctly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in Term 2, 1 in Term 3 1 hour 17
Seminars 7 7 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Film Screening 1 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 174
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examinations 2 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assessment consisting of a short essay (max. 2,000 words) or assignment of equivalent length e.g. source commentaries 2,000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography. 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module. The summative coursework will have a formative element by allowing students to develop ideas and arguments for the examination and to practice writing to similar word limits.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University