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Maritime treasures: diving into maritime history


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


Maritime historians seek to interpret the way in which people associated with the sea lived in past times. They hope to add to our knowledge and understanding of people’s relationship with the sea by providing social, economic, cultural and technological information. To maritime historians (and maritime archaeologists) every excavated wreck is a treasure-trove of information. Each find tells a story and provides us with objective tangible evidence of the way people lived long ago. Sunken ships are like time capsules and they are associated with our maritime history of trade, seafaring communities, travelling, expansion and warfare that goes far beyond that one ship wreck location. This MA research seminar explores how the tangible maritime treasures and cultural heritage can be used alongside handwritten and printed sources to study Dutch shipping, combining local maritime activities and global maritime networks. Research in primary archival sources can contribute to expand and diversify the context in which shipwrecks and their material culture are viewed. Students discuss different theoretical and methodological perspectives and the pros and cons of interdisciplinary research. The aim is to do an interdisciplinary approach in researching Dutch ship wrecks worldwide (1600-1950). The students will be providing the historical background of these wrecks.The research will be part of a larger project of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Faculty of Archaeology that attempts to collect and interpret information by (sports)divers who have been diving on Dutch ship wrecks. The students will need to write a ‘biography’ of a ship from archival and other written resources, maps, iconography, finds etc. to complete the picture of a ship in its society and the wreck in its historic context and maritime cultural landscape.

Please note that all primary sources are in Dutch (See Remarks below)!

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940);
    -in the subtrack Maritime History also: the development of maritime history from the 16th century onwards; insight into recent issues in the field.

  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subtrack in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective;
    -in the subtrack Maritime History also: comparative research; archive research.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. Has gained knowledge of, and insight into, the historiographical debates of maritime history and maritime archaeology;

  2. Has a clear idea of empirical research from a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective;

  3. Has gained knowledge of a large variety of archival sources, archaeological finds and literature;

  4. Has gained insight into Dutch shipping combining local maritime activities and global maritime networks;

  5. ResMA only – has gained innovative insights into Dutch shipping, based on more extensive research, writing an overarching maritime landscape that considers the area in order to create a context for the individual site.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6.500-7.500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-16 (ResMA also: 10, 17)

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 3-9

  • Assignment 1: essay theoretical and methodological perspectives of maritime history and archaeology
    measured learning objectives: 11-14 (ResMA also: 10)

  • Assignment 2: essay on the maritime landscape of a shipwreck site
    measured learning objectives: 11-14, 16

  • Assignment 3 and 4: heuristics
    measured learning objectives: 1-4

  • Active participation during class
    measured learning objectives: 8-9 (ResMA also: 10)

  • (ResMA only: introduction and moderator discussion: Maritime History, Maritime Archaeology and Ethics)
    measured learning objectives: 10, 17


  • Written paper: 70%

  • Oral presentation (including video presentation): 10 %

  • Class participation and assignments (ResMA included: introducing and moderating discussion): 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised. 

Reading list

Readings will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Please note all primary sources are in Dutch. This course will be taught in Dutch. An excursion will be determined in a later stage.