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SC2012 Imperial Adventures: A History of Europe Overseas is a Course

SC2012 Imperial Adventures: A History of Europe Overseas

Ended 16 Mar 2021

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Full course description

Course Overview

From the fifteenth century a handful of nations on the western edge of Europe spread out across the oceans and came in the end to dominate the world. They set out to spread the word of God, and to enslave whole populations; to build a new paradise, and to plant their country's flag on ground too bleak and hostile for their countrymen ever to inhabit. They were motivated by piety and by greed and by simple curiosity, and in journeying into a world at first known only in legends, they created legends enough of their own. These eight lectures examine how Europeans envisioned the world, and then, for good and ill, remade it by famous and infamous endeavours spanning five hundred years.


In one respect this is a history of the world, and while it is unashamedly one-sided in its European perspective, the past five centuries have, if effect, been the history of a world shaped by European influences. In another respect, although they do not shy away from the more distasteful aspects of imperial history, these are tales of derring-do in lands across the seas. This is history, but it is history with the enduring appeal of adventure stories.


Course Schedule 


Classes will be delivered online on Tuesdays 7-9pm for eight weeks from 26 January to 16 March.

  1. Beyond a few travellers' tales and luxury imports, the wider world was, for Europeans, a matter of legend, guesswork, and outright fantasy. The first lecture looks at Europe's first venturings into a world mapped only in the imagination.
  2. Columbus insisted that he had found the Indies, but the Spanish had swiftly to learn that these colourful islands were in fact two continental land masses, and these exotic colonies were not just New Spain but a New World.
  3. While the Spanish were first sailing into the Pacific, the Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English were sailing around the world from the other direction, with all eyes fixed upon the wealth of the Indies.
  4. For some, the Americas were where Christendom could be built anew, free from the corruption of homeland and history. Others saw a matchless opportunity to get rich quick. This lecture looks at slavers, pilgrims, and pirates.
  5. From a few trading posts on the coasts of India the British rose to inherit the empire of the Mughals, while all the while attempting to build an England in Asia.
  6. In the 18th and 19th centuries a new age of more systematic discovery was embarked upon for economic and scientific gain, yet it was a more visionary impulse that drove explorers into the deep jungles or onto the polar ice.
  7. Justified by notions of a 'White Man's Burden' and 'Manifest Destiny', European culture spread rapidly across the globe in the 19th century, but for all the high ideals, imperialism was often still a matter of guns and gold-fever.
  8. The final lecture deals with how, infected by European ideas of nationalism, and educated by the 'civilising mission' to a sufficient level of dissatisfaction, the subject peoples sought to throw off their imperial shackles.

Course Lecturer

John Ware is a part-time lecturer in the UCC School of History and ACE (Adult Continuing Education). He specialises in medieval history, particularly the Crusades; and in military history, particularly the First World War. The course is a series of eight two-hour lectures, with handouts supplied as necessary.

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Closing Date for Application

Monday 18 January

Contact Details for Further Information

Regina Sexton, Phone: 021-4904700, Email: