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Cultural Encounters in Asia, 1500 - 1700 - HIS00045C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Tim Riding
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2020-21

Module summary

During the period 1500-1700 the world changed beyond recognition. This was an age of imperial power, with the major empires of Asia – the Ottomans, Persians, Mughals, and Chinese – dominating key aspects of global trade. Ancient trade links between Asia, Europe, and Africa were reinvigorated and strengthened, and new routes and connections between various regions were forged. European trade also increased; as did the imperial ambitions of a number of European powers. By the middle of the sixteenth century, for the first time, all the inhabited continents of the world – including the Americas - were connected to some extent by stable trade routes and continuous exchange. Cultural, artistic, diplomatic, and religious exchange across Asia fuelled the development of new patterns of consumption and production, and introduced new aesthetic styles and material cultures.

Following merchants, missionaries, diplomats, and adventurers as they travelled around Asia, this module will provide an introduction to this exciting period of global exchange. Students will explore the networks of trade, diplomacy and religious exchange in Asia which linked varied communities to each other and to the wider world. Examining a wide range of primary sources, from artworks, to written texts, material culture, maps, and music, students will examine how encounters and exchanges shaped intellectual and cultural developments in Europe, Asia and further afield. Through a series of case studies which illuminate key moments of cultural exchange, the module provides students with the tools to examine big questions in global history, from a variety of Asian, African, and European perspectives

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.


Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into an unfamiliar period and/or approach to history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have further developed work undertaken in the Autumn Term lecture courses and skills portfolios, including historical analysis, note-taking, using primary sources, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars;
  • Be able to construct a coherent historical argument in oral and written forms

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over nine weeks, plus an overview and revision session in Week 2 of Summer Term. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

Spring Term

1. Introduction: Asia and the Early Modern World

2. The Empires of Early Modern Eurasia

3. From Silk Roads to Spice Routes: Trade, Colonialism, and Culture

4. Global Renaissances? Art and Power

5. Chinese Porcelain for a Persian Saint: Material Culture and Diplomacy

6. Asia and the New World

7. Religious Exchange and Conversion

8. Science, Medicine, and Technology

9. Thinking about Sources: Lost Voices and New Perspectives on Global History

Summer Term

2. Overview and revision


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam
Open Exam
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

During the Spring Term students will prepare a presentation in pairs or small groups. Tutors will determine the formative work for the course: all groups will present either on a primary source or on an assigned historiographical question. Formative work will be completed in one or more sessions at the tutor’s discretion.

Summative assessment:

An open exam in the Common Assessment Period, comprising one essay question chosen from five options.


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam
Open Exam
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. Students will have a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial to discuss the formative assessment and prepare for the summative assessment. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following:

John Darwin, After Tamerlane. The Global History of Empire since 1405 (London: Allen Lane, 2007).

Jerry H. Bentley, Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks (eds), The Construction of a Global World, 1400-1800 CE , The Cambridge World History, Volume 6, part 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

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.