History: Going to America

Ref: C2341693

2020 will be the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower which will be commemorated on both sides of the Atlantic. This course will study the European settlement of 'The New World' from about 1490 to about 1700. It will attempt to delve behind the popular stories and discover the reality of dangers, deceptions and disasters which accompanied the early attempts to plant European settlements on the shores of North America. Documentary evidence and vivid first-hand accounts will be examined to allow a better understanding of the beginnings of the United States. The topic features many intriguing characters - some heroic and others treacherous - as well as puzzling mysteries which are still debated today.

Additional information about this course

Actual venue is Bishop Street Methodist Church

Course aim

To study the European settlement of 'The New World' from about 1490 to about 1750 as the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower and Pilgrim Fathers (1620) approaches.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Everyone is welcome and no previous knowledge is assumed.

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

  • demonstrate an increased knowledge of the key events and personalities of the European exploration and settlement of North America c.1490-c.1700.
  • use historical sources such as letters, journals, accounts, maps and drawings to illustrate this topic.
  • explain why Europeans hazarded their lives in voyaging to the New World.
  • discuss the ways in which the arrival of Europeans in North America changed the way of life of Native Americans.
  • discuss the ways in which key episodes of the early exploration and settlement of North America has been portrayed in popular culture, e.g. the story of Pocahontas

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
  • The emphasis will be on student enquiry of source material (provided) combined with group discussion. Each session will feature hand-outs to assist further study and learning.

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

What else do I need to know?

  • A notebook and pen would be useful. A folder in which to store the hand-outs issued each session would also be helpful.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Browsing library shelves and/or the internet on topics like the Mayflower Pilgrims or Pocahontas and Jamestown might be helpful. Alan Taylor's "Colonial America - A Very Short Introduction" (Oxford University Press 2013) provides a broad overview of European settlement in the 'New World'.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • The tutor will be happy to discuss possibilities for further studies with course members.

Download full course information sheet

History: Going to America


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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