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Spices & Spies: Renaissance Global Travel - ENG00108H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Lauren Working
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Late Tudor and Stuart travel writing brims with the marvels of other places, from descriptions of Mughal Indian hospitality to rumours of cities of gold in the Amazon. This was a moment of imperial envy, as the English looked to the wealth of eastern empires, and intense rivalry, where agents and spies navigated borders and languages to gain knowledge and fuel claims of imperial possession. Even as the English benefited from the influx of new goods and information coming into the realm, travellers were also part of complex networks of commerce, diplomacy, and colonialism that brought dispossession and ecological devastation.

You will be encouraged to think about English and European writings about other cultures and societies alongside material created by those places – a colonial text about Virginia, for example, alongside Indigenous beads and tobacco pipes from the Jamestown archaeological site – in order to expand their understanding of ‘the Renaissance’ and to ask critical questions about the costs and consequences of global travel in this period. You will develop your visual literacy and the confidence to analyse objects alongside textual material. This module will explore a wide range of English travel writing alongside texts and objects from other continents to think about global mobility in the Renaissance and to ask: whose ‘golden age’ was it?

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of this module is to examine a broad range of English literature that engages with travel and cross-cultural encounters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including poetry, plays, romances, and language manuals.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with different genres of travel literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with textual and object-based analysis

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with Renaissance global travel and colonialism

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
3000-word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000-word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000-word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

Your essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks.

You will submit your summative essay via the VLE during the revision and assessment weeks at the end of the teaching semester (weeks 13-15). Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to e:Vision to meet the University’s marking deadlines



Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Texts may include:

  • Letters between Elizabeth I and Sultana Safiye
  • Thomas Hariot, A brief and true report of the new found land of Virginia (1588)
  • Anne of Denmark’s court masques
  • Walter Ralegh, The Discoverie of Guiana (1596)
  • John Fletcher, The Island Princess (1623)

Additional sources: 16th century passports; Ottoman poetry; an oral history of the Amazonian rainforest; Madagascan cornelian beads; archival records of Black lives in early modern London.

Secondary material

  • Kim Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England (1995)
  • Lives in Transit in Early Modern England: Identity and Belonging, ed. Nandini Das (2022)
  • Jyotsna Singh, A Companion to the Global Renaissance (2021)
  • Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, Drama, and the Wider World, ed. Patricia Ahkimie and Bernadette Andrea (2019)
  • Coll Thrush, 'Dawnland Telescopes: Making Colonial Knowledge in Algonquian London, 1580–1630', in Indigenous London (2016)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.