Europe's Other Empire of the Seas

Ref: C3741290

This story is rarely told yet it's equal in scope, risk, tenacity and achievements with the 16th and 17th centuries more famously known imperial successes of Spain, France and England. The course examines the global achievements of two much smaller nations, Portugal and The Netherlands, both of whom punched considerably above their respective weights during the Dutch Golden Age and Portugal's creation of the world's first Empire of the Seas. Then to the Mediterranean, examining the fascinating successes of the Italian city states led by Venice, who dominated the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, holding at bay and often defeating the mighty Ottoman empire. And finally the Hanseatic League, for over 300 years northern Europe's commercially successful and mutually defensive confederation of merchant guilds across some 80 towns and cities,

Course aim

Between the years 1000 and 1688, Europe had a second division of sovereign nation states and cities who sort out, built and them lost their own Empires of the Seas. This is their remarkable story.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Students need a level 2 qualification in English to join this course
  • All are welcome, especially if they have enquiring minds, and an interest in a history subject rarely taught but often seen when on continental holidays.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify the two major reasons as to why, by 1700, the Italian City States had all but collapsed.
  • recognise the most important factor that enabled Portugal to achieve, between 1480 and 1520, its navigational successes, and separately the major factor enabling its ships to trade so successfully, reliably and profitably across the world's oceans..
  • identify the most important factor that enabled the Nethelands to create and exploit, from 1620 until 1750, it's now world famous "Golden Age" of the Dutch and Netherland Seven Republics.
  • understand how and why the Hanseatic Leaugue was so successful in what it achieved and the being able to identify two reasons that confirm such understanding.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • My teaching method is based upon my PowerPoint images of photographs, artworks and cartoons and maps, charts, tables and diagrams, all of which are available to learners at the end of the course.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • Both my learner and group assessments are very informal and frequent with learners, almost without exception being retired from full time employment and joining my courses for education, information and entertainment which I'm told I deliver.

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • All materials will be provided
  • Each learners gets a course information handout that includes course objectives, session plans, event time-lines with key maps/diagrams. Every learner may download a copy of my PowerPoint images onto their own flash drives

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • My handout at the beginning of the course includes a proposed reading list of the books and websites I've used in creating the course together with any museums, art gallery and library exhibitions with relevance to the course.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • A majority of learners seek to join further WEA history courses. This is in preference to U3A history event, as weekly sessional courses for them are more involving than U3As' after lunch, 90 minute chats.

Download full Course information sheet

Europe's Other Empire of the Seas


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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