Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST31D3: Flavours and Foodways in the Early Modern British Americas and Atlantic

Department: History

HIST31D3: Flavours and Foodways in the Early Modern British Americas and Atlantic

Type Open Level 3 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 18 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least TWO level two modules in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • 1. To provide students with an introduction to one of the biggest shifts in the history of human consumption: the first time that food became truly globalized, c. 1600-1800;
  • 2. Students will learn about different historiographical approaches to researching and writing food history, and will develop their own strategies for conducting original, inclusive research and writing on early modern foodways.


  • 1. The module provides an opportunity to examine the major changes in the ways that food circulated around the world, c. 1600-1800, with particular attention to foods wild-grown in the Americas and their spread and circulation;
  • 2. Attention will be given to a number of different but complementary areas of inquiry, specifically the cultivation and harvesting of foods; the ‘discovery’ and assimilation of scientific and natural knowledge; the relationship between food and the ‘consumer revolution’; food and identity; Black and First Nations (eg., American Native or Indigenous) expertise and experience.
  • 3. Particular topics covered will include: rice cultivation and Black expertise; maize and Indigenous life-cycles and spiritual practices; chocolate and its reception in Europe; food waste; food preservation; food and concepts of charity and provision.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • 1. Familiarity with seventeenth-and eighteenth-century social and cultural history.
  • 2. Ability to critically engage with different forms of primary source evidence, including correspondence, early printed books, visual images, and recipes.
  • 3. Reading and researching ‘against the grain’ of the traditional archive, including via field work with food, farming, and restaurant professionals.
  • 4. Understanding the transmission of knowledge, the transplantation of flora and fauna, and the voluntary and involuntary movement of people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Integrating primary and secondary sources in a skilled and sustained manner
  • Engaging in deep, careful analysis of primary sources, while confronting methodological and conceptual challenges associated with advanced research.
  • Evaluating historical interpretations and encouraging students to position themselves within existing debates
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

  • 1. Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • a. 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 tolerate approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the 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;
  • b. Tutorials either individually or in groups to discuss topics arising from prepared work, allowing students the opportunity to reflect upon their personal learning with the tutor.
  • 2. Assessment:
  • a. Examinations test students’ ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen 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;
  • b. Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of sources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources;
  • c. Assessment of Primary Source Handling: students are assessed on their understanding of original primary sources, usually in print, their character varying according to the nature of the subject, and the students’ ability to bring that knowledge to bear on ‘cutting edge’ research-based monographs and articles. Students are given the opportunity to discuss and articulate and understanding of changing interpretations and approaches to historical problems, drawing evidence from a body of primary source materials. Students are required to demonstrate skills associated with the evaluation of a variety of primary source materials, using documentary analysis for a critical assessment of existing historical interpretations.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 Termly in Terms 1 and 2 0.5 hours 1
Seminars 19 Weekly in Terms 1 and 2 3 hours 57
Revision Sessions 1 Revision 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 540
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 maximum of 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Essay 2 maximum of 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Source Analyses maximum of 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 32%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 3 hourse 100%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of not more than 2000 words; preparation to participate in seminar and tutorials, and practice source/gobbet work.

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