HI6034 - Big Business in Asia? The European East India Companies, 1600–1800

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What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will study the different European East India Companies: the English and Dutch, but also the Portuguese, French, Swedish, Danish, Flemish, and German, Austrian, and Italian efforts. You will learn how these first ‘modern multinationals’ functioned as shareholder companies back in Europe and how they operated in China, Japan, India, and Indonesia; how they tried to fit in to a centuries-old cosmopolitan trading culture in the Indian Ocean world, dealt with the authorities in China and Japan who considered them little more than troublemaking barbarians, and how they tried to come up with products and payments of interest to all of these by developing networks that spanned the globe. You will investigate the problems European traders on the ground faced trying to source goods that would be fashionable in Europe, Africa, and the Americas respectively, but also the trouble directors and investors back home had in controlling these traders. You will analyse how Europeans abroad cooperated and fought both with each other and with local rulers, how trade and imperial rule intertwined and were contested, and how European attempts at Christianisation, military and economic control were received, both in Asia and in Europe. So this module features treasure-chests and shipwrecks, fashion, smuggling, violence and murder, attempts at world-domination, bankruptcies, fraud and tax-evasion on an epic scale, but all crowned by a good-old (or rather new) cup of tea.

How will I learn on this module?

Weekly lectures will introduce you to the module’s topics and the historiography of cultural, economic, and diplomatic history as well as material and visual culture. In weekly seminars you will then study these approaches in greater detail by discussing set secondary readings from the new and cutting-edge approaches of ‘global’ and ‘connected’ history, which look at both sides of the story – not just the European experience alone. Just as important as the historiographical approaches however is the in-depth engagement with the provided primary sources. You will read private merchant letters and diaries, but also study drawings, paintings, and caricatures, as well as newspapers, speeches, and reports that allow you to study reactions in Asia and Europe. You will be expected to prepare for the weekly seminars by undertaking essential and recommended reading, and will build on your independent reading by presenting your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

All learning materials, tasks and readings will be posted on the eLearning Portal (Blackboard) to enable participation within the seminar and develop your learning and understanding of the module and the wider field. Your academic development will be further supported through engagement with your peers, as well as with your academic tutor. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised feedback and consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you will a collaborative learning environment, and your tutor will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course. Formative feedback will be on-going throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge about the context of early modern trade and empire in Eurasia.
2. Understanding different approaches to the study of organisations, cross-cultural contact, and early modern globalisation.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Transferable skills including the ability to detect bias in arguments, to critically evaluate sources, summarise current research, make and persuasively present independent and informed judgements, and evaluate and apply different historiographical and critical approaches.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Global cultural awareness, that is the ability to detect and deconstruct simplistic binaries such as ‘East’ and ‘West’; sensitivity to the mechanisms of cross-cultural contact, transculturation, and conflict; a nuanced and critical understanding of European colonisation and imperialism.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment will be via
- a book review (20%) that is at once a written assessment of 1,250 words submitted via TurnitIn and, prior to this, a class presentation during which you can gain formative feedback that will help you improve the written version which you submit (MLOs 1–3);
- a written analysis of 1,750 words of two primary sources (30%),at least one of which must be a non-textual one (MLOs 1–3);
- and an extended essay of 3,000 words (50%) on a question provided by the module tutor or agreed with the module tutor to cater for individual interests (MLOs 1-4).

You will receive formative feedback from your tutor and your peers in seminar discussions.
You will receive written feedback from your tutor on all assignments. Feedback on initial summative assessments will enable you to improve on later ones. For the final essay you will have the opportunity to receive formative feedback on an essay plan prior to submitting your essay.

Pre-requisite(s)

N/A

Co-requisite(s)

N/A

Module abstract

This module features treasure-chests and shipwrecks, fashion, smuggling, violence and murder, attempts at world-domination, bankruptcies, fraud and tax-evasion on an epic scale, but all crowned by a good-old (or rather new) cup of tea.
It explores how the first ‘modern multinationals, the European East India Companies, tried to fit in to a centuries-old cosmopolitan trading culture in the Indian Ocean world, dealt with the unimpressed authorities in China and Japan, and how they tried to come up with products and payments of interest to all of these by developing networks that spanned the globe. You will investigate the problems European traders on the ground faced trying to source goods that would be fashionable in Europe, Africa, and the Americas respectively, but also the trouble directors and investors back home had in controlling these traders. You will analyse how Europeans abroad cooperated and fought both with each other and with local rulers, how trade and imperial rule intertwined and were contested, and how European attempts at Christianisation, military and economic control were received, both in Asia and in Europe.

Course info

UCAS Code V100

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020

Fee Information

Module Information

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