Christopher Columbus and the Great Age of Discovery


HIST 351: Fall 2007

Instructor: Ronald Fritze

Credit: 3 hours.

Office hours: Unless I am in class or a meeting, I will be working in my office Monday through Friday from 8:00-4:30.

Office: Pabst House

Telephone: 233-8184; email:   (Feel free to contact me either by phone or email.  Email will probably get you a prompter response).


For Website at Planet Clio, go to:

This site has the syllabus posted along with instructions for assignments.



Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492

Ronald Fritze, New Worlds

Natalie Zemon Davis, Trickster Tales

Mathew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest

Peter C. Mancall, Travel Narratives from the Age of Discovery: An Anthology


Course Description: This class will survey the era of European expansion from 1400-1600 with a focus on the career of Christopher Columbus.  It will also study the ancient and medieval background of the early modern expansion of Europe and the biological, cultural, social and economic impact of the discovery of the Americas and the sea-road to Asia.


Course Objectives:

1. Students will gain a working knowledge of the main events of the Age of Discovery and their chronological order.

2. Students will become familiar with the individuals who played an important role in the Age of Discovery.

3. Students will become acquainted the secondary literature and the reference materials dealing with the Age of Discovery and write a critical book review.

4. Students will sample and evaluate primary sources from the Age of Discovery.

5. Students will conceive, research, and write a research project dealing with some topic related to the Age of Discovery.

6. Students will use their knowledge to evaluate and to critique films and documentaries related to the Age of Discovery. 


Class Attendance: Coming to classes is an integral part of the learning experience.  Students need to try to make every class meeting. If they cannot make it to class they need to inform the instructor ahead of time, if possible.  They definitely need to explain their absence, after the fact, if they did not explain it beforehand.  Four absences, both excused and unexcused will result in the student being dropped from the class.


Academic Misconduct: For definitions and procedures regarding academic dishonesty and plagiarism, see your Student Handbook. 


Examinations and Quizzes:  (midterm= 20%; take-home final=10%, and quizzes= 40%) The tests in this class will consist of reading quizzes on the Davis, Mancall, Fritze, Crosby, and Restall books. The reading quizzes will be objective and/or short answer questions. The midterm exam on 31 Oct. will be over the lectures and the readings. The midterm will be essay and possibly some objective questions.  The take-home exam will be due on 5 Dec and if possible should be type-written and not longer than 8 pages.  Late penalty will be a whole grade each day the paper is not turned in by 4:30 pm.


Grading:  This class will consist of 500 total points. 

100 (20%) major project

100 (20%) midterm

 50 (10%) take-home final on Columbus film festival

 50 (10%) book review of Columbus biography

 25 (5%) Mancall assignment and quiz

175 (35%) quizzes (7 or each quiz equals approximately 5%)


500 (100%) total


450 and above= A

400-449=       B

350-399=       C

300-349=       D


Class Participation:  Students are expected to come to class and be prepared to discuss the various topics at the appropriate times.  

Research Project: See separate handout or document on website.


Aug.    20        Introduction of course readings and assignments.  Rediscovering America video.

22        Legendary and Pseudo-Discoverers of the New World.

27        Video comparison: Vikings in America and In Search of: Vikings.

29        Discussion of documentaries

Quiz One on New Worlds, chs. 1 and 2.


Sept.     5         Shape of the World: Staking a Claim video and discussion.

10        Geographical Knowledge of Antiquity and Medieval Europe.

                        Quiz Two New Worlds, chs. 3 and 4.

 12         Geographical Knowledge of Antiquity and Medieval Europe.  Pick topic for major research project and turn in title.

Quiz Three New Worlds, chs. 5 and 6.

17        Geographical Knowledge of Antiquity and Medieval Europe

19        Lecture on Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages

Turn in reviews of Columbus biography. 

24        Discussion groups on Columbus and his biographers.

26        Lecture on Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean World in the Middle Ages.  Hand in bibliographies for research projects.


Oct.     1         Lecture on Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean World in the Midddle Ages.

 3        Early Portuguese explorations. Quiz on Mancall.

 8        Early Portuguese explorations.

 10       Early English and French Explorations of the Americas.

                                    Quiz Four Trickster Travels

15        Early English and French Explorations of the Americas.

                    Quiz five on Crosby, chs. 1-3, and progress reports on research projects.

            17        Intellectual and Cultural Consequences of the Discovery of America.

            22        Intellectual and Cultural Consequences of the Discovery of America.

Quiz six Crosby, chs. 4-6.

            24        Seeds of Change video

            29        Finish up lectures and quiz seven on Seven Myths of the Conquest

            31        M A J O R    E X A M


Nov.    5        Christopher Columbus (Frederic March version, 1941)


            14        1492

26        Research papers and projects due.

            28        Christopher Columbus: The Discovery


Dec.    3       Finish films.

            5        Take home final due; Project presentations.

            12        Finals Day: Project Presentations.

            Last day to drop or withdraw: 13 Nov.