81960 - History of Cultural Exchanges in the Modern Age (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Carlo Taviani

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-STO/02

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History and Oriental Studies (cod. 8845)

  • Course Timetable from Mar 21, 2022 to May 03, 2022

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students will demonstrate awareness of the cultural dimension of Modern economy and society. Special attention will be given to free and forced movements of people in relation to global phenomena such as geographical discoveries, colonialism, and capitalist expansion. At the end of the course students will have acquired a fundamental knowledge of the historical foundations of cultural interactions and conflicts typical of the global age.

Course contents

Early Modern Global Exchanges

Class 1: Introduction
Class 2: Sources
Class 3: Material Culture

Methodology and Historiographical Debates

Class 4: Microhistory and Global History
Class 5: Economic Institutions
Class 7: Slavery in the Atlantic
Class 8: Moving from the Islands: Introduction

Case studies

Class 9:   Moving from the Islands: Plantation Complex
Class 10: Archaeology vs. History: West Africa
Class 11: Archaeology vs. History: Canary Islands
Class 12: Institutional Migration
Class 13: Networks
Class 14: Goods
Class 15: Conclusions


This course focuses on early modern global exchanges from a multifocal perspective. Beginning with the aftermath of the global pandemic which devastated Europe in the fourteenth century, it will concentrate on economic, social, and cultural history over the subsequent centuries, up until the middle of the eighteenth century. Following a short introductory session, a selected set of lectures will focus on methodological and historiographical discussions, while a third section will explore several case studies, mainly along the lines of history of archaeology, institutions, and trade in the Atlantic.




Class 2: Sources

Markus Friedrich, Epilogue: Archives and Archiving across Cultures―Towards a Matrix of Analysis, in Alessandro Bausi; Christian Brockmann; Michael Friedrich; Sabine Kienitz (ed.), Manuscripts and archives : comparative views on record-keeping, Berlin-Boston, De Gruyter, 2018, 421-445.

Paulo de Moraes Farias, Intellectual innovation and reinvention of the Sahel: the seventeenth-century Timbuktu chronicles, in Shamil Jeppie and Souleymane Bachir Diagne, The meanings of Timbuktu, HSRC Press, Cape Town, 2008, 95-108.

Website, TANAP, The Global Archives of the Dutch East India Company: http://www.tanap.net/


Class 3: Material Culture

Suzanne Preston Blier, Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492, The Centennial Anthology of the Art Bulletin. New York: College Art Association, 2011, 375-396.

Pablo F. Gómez, Caribbean stones and the creation of early-modern worlds, History and Technology (2018), 34:1, 11-20.

Kate Lowe, Visual Representations of an Elite: African Ambassadors and Rulers in Renaissance Europe, in Joaneath Spicer (ed.), Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe, Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, 2012, 13-34.

Website, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works/

Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello (eds.), The Global Lives of Things: The Material Culture of Connections in the Early Modern World, Basingstoke, Routledge, 2016. Introduction. The global lives of things: material culture in the first global age, 1-28.

Bronwen Wilson and Angela Vanhaelen, Introduction: Making Worlds: Art, Materiality, and Early Modern Globalization, Journal of early Modern History 23 (2019), 103-120.


Class 4: Microhistory and Global History

Francesca Trivellato, Is There a Future for Italian Microhistory in the Age of Global History? California Italian Studies, 2 (1), 2011, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0z94n9hq .


Class 5: Economic Institutions

Douglass C. North, Institutions, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 5, No. 1. (Winter, 1991), 97-112.

Aslanian, Sebouh, The Circulation of Men and Credit: The Role of the Commenda and the Family Firm in Julfan Society, The Journal of the Social and Economic History of the Orient, 50, 2 (2007), 124-171.

Class 6: Slavery

David Richardson, Involuntary Migration in the Early Modern World, 1500–1800, in D. Eltis and S. Engerman (eds.), The Cambridge World History of Slavery, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.


Class 7: Slavery in the Atlantic

John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the making of the Atlantic world, 1400-1680, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992. Introduction and Chapter 2, 1-9 and 43-71.

Gabriel Rocha, Maroons in the Montes: Toward a Political Ecology of Marronage in the Sixteenth-Century Caribbean: A Critical Anthology, in Cassander L. Smith, Nicholas R. Jones, and Miles P. Grier (eds.), Early Modern Black Diaspora Studies: A Critical Anthology, Palgrave McMillan, Cham, 2018, 15-35.


Class 8: Moving from the Islands: Introduction

Stefan Halikowski Smith, The Mid-Atlantic Islands: A Theatre of Early Modern Ecocide? International Review of Social History, 55 (2010), 51-77.


Class 9: Moving from the Islands: Plantation Complex

Philip D. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.


Class 10: Archaeology vs. History: West Africa

Gérard Chouin and Christopher R. DeCorse. “Prelude to the Atlantic Trade: New Perspectives on Southern Ghana’s Pre-Atlantic History (800–1500).” Journal of African History 51 (2010): 123–145.

Akinwumi Ogundiran, “Of Small Things Remembered: Beads, Cowries and Cultural Translations of the Atlantic Experience in Yorubaland.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35 (2002): 427–457.


Class 11: Archaeology vs. History: Canary Islands

David Abulafia, The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008, 33-95.

A José Farrujia de la Rosa, An archaeology of the margins : colonialism, Amazighity and heritage management in the Canary Islands, New York: Springer, 2014, 23-42.


Class 12: Institutional Migration

John R. Searle, Social ontology: Some basic principles, Anthropological Theory 2006, 6, 12-29.

Ron Harris, Going the Distance: Eurasian Trade and the Rise of the Business Corporation, 1400-1700, Princeton University Press, 2020, 48-129.

Harris, Ron, The Institutional Dynamics of early modern Eurasian Trade: the Commenda and the Corporation, Journal of economic behavior & organization, 71 (3) (2009), 606-622.

Udovitch, Abraham L. «At the Origins of the Western Commenda: Islam, Israel, Byzantium?» Speculum 37, n. 2 (aprile 1962), 198–207.


Class 13: Networks

John F. Padgett and Paul D. McLean, Organizational Invention and Elite Transformation: The Birth of Partnership Systems in Renaissance Florence, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 111, No. 5 (March 2006), 1463-1568.

Anne Haour and Ian Forrest, Trust in Long-Distance Relationships, 1000-1600 CE, Past and Present (2018), Supplement 13, 190-213.


Class 14: Goods

Ralph A. Austen, Trans-Saharan Africa in World History, 2010, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Chapter 2: Caravan Commerce and African Trade, 23-48.

Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The social life of things. Commodities in cultural perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1986. 1. Introduction, 3-63.

Teaching methods

The course’s aims are, firstly, a strong focus on events from early modern global history, secondly, the study of specific perspectives, and, thirdly, the development of original research from the participating students.

Assessment methods

Attending students must attend at least 12 of the 15 lectures.

Attending students have two options: either they can write a paper (see the section “Paper”), or can prepare for the oral exam (see the section “Oral exam for attending-students”). Non-attending students are those who do not attend any lecture, or who attend less than 12 of the lectures.

Non-attending students will prepare for the oral exam (see the section “Oral exam for non-attending students”).


Students can choose to write a paper on a topic from classes 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, or 14.

The length of the paper must be between 6000 and 7000 words, including bibliography and footnotes, and can be submitted either in PDF or Word format. Information on the reference system, quotation and bibliography can be found in the section “Online material”, in the folder named “Material for the paper”.

There are three deadlines for submitting the paper. The grade is based on the paper’s content only and not on its discussion. Grades will be assessed on the basis of the following scheme: 60% ideas and originality, 20% ability to make connections with the contents of the lectures, 20% writing and style.

Grades will be registered approximately 15 days after the deadline, during an online session where the paper will also be discussed. Candidates must register for this session on AlmaEsami. No extension of deadlines is possible. If you cannot submit the paper by the above-mentioned deadlines, consider preparing for the oral exams. If you need to register the grade by a specific deadline, in order to receive a fellowship, consider the date of the registration and not the earlier deadline for submitting the paper.


Oral exams

Both attending and non-attending students who want to prepare for the oral exam must carefully study Charles Parker, Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400–1800, Cambridge University Press, 2010. Several detailed questions during the exam will focus on this book. Some other questions will address the readings. A critical refined discussion of the most relevant topics will lead to an excellent grade. The ability to mention and discuss important topics will lead to a sufficient grade. The lack of ability in discussing at least 50% of the topics will lead in the failure of the exam.


Oral exam for attending students

Students who chose to prepare for the oral exam must attend the lectures (at least 75%). The exam is based on: 1) a discussion of the content of the lectures, 2) on the book listed above by Charles Parker, and 3) on 3 readings of their choice among those listed on the syllabus, which are online on the website (in the section “online material”). Questions will be asked according to the following scheme: 25% for the first group, 50% for the second, and 25% for the third group.

Oral exam for non-attending students

Non-attending students must carefully study Charles Parker’s book and 12 readings of their choice among those listed on the syllabus, which are online on the website (in the section “online material”). Questions will be asked according to the following scheme: 50% will focus on Parker’s book and 50% on the readings.


Office hours

See the website of Carlo Taviani