Module Catalogue 2015/16

HIS2132 : The Criminal Atlantic in the Long Eighteenth Century: Pirates, Convicts and Rebels

  • Offered for Year: 2015/16
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Gwenda Morgan
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Historians of the Atlantic World view the vast ocean separating Europe and Africa from the Americas not as a barrier but a bridge or a highway over which people travelled in both directions. This module deals with people in motion who have been criminalized by the law and the courts. It focuses on the experiences of three distinct groups of people whose identities were shaped by their Atlantic experiences. These are the pirates who infested the waters of the Caribbean and wrecked havoc along the North Atlantic coast; the rebels who sought refuge in North America as well as those condemned to exile in the wake of a series of rebellions in Britain; and thirdly, there were the convicts - the thousands of men, women and young people who, sentenced to criminal transportation by British and Irish courts, served their time as indentured servants in the Chesapeake colonies of Virginia or Maryland. Colonists also made use of criminal transportation but its use was limited to cases of rebellious natives and dissident slaves.

This module draws on personal narratives, contemporary pamphlets and essays, last dying speeches, British, Irish and colonial newspapers and runaway advertisements, as well as state documents and court records, in order to recaptures the lives of those who shared these experiences.

The aims of the module are:
•To explore the multiple meanings of the concept of the Atlantic World.
•To locate the Criminal Atlantic within the larger concept of the Atlantic World.
•To examine the place of piracy, rebellion, felony and misdemeanour within the Criminal Atlantic.
•To recover the legal structures within which pirates, rebels and criminals were trapped on both sides of the Atlantic.
•To reconstruct the lives of those not only bound for America but also those in America who were transported to Caribbean and Spanish American Colonies.
•To examine the relationship between law and society.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module focuses on the experiences of three distinct groups of people in the British Atlantic world who were criminalized by law and the courts: the pirates who infested the Caribbean and North Atlantic coast, the rebels who sought refuge in America or were sent into exile by the authorities and the thousands of men, women and young people who, sentenced to transportation by British and Irish courts, became indentured servants in the Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland. It also examines how colonists in British America remodelled their legal heritage to meet their circumstances reserving criminal transportation for rebellious natives and dissident slaves. When the Revolution came both sides made use of ’removal’ claiming legal authority for their actions.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students should gain an understanding of the complexity of the Atlantic world in general and the criminal Atlantic in particular. They should also recognize the contested identity of early America, the growing importance of print culture in the eighteenth century and why criminal transportation assumed the shape that it did.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Ability to identify and analyse a wide variety of source materials, to put them to practical use in relation to both broad and specific questions, to generate new questions and create new knowledge, to engage in team work inside academia and deal with outside agencies in the quest for original materials.

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Literacy : Assessed
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Assessed
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
  • Self Management
    • Self Awareness And Reflection : Present
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Goal Setting And Action Planning : Assessed
      • Decision Making : Present
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Innovation And Creativity : Assessed
      • Initiative : Assessed
      • Independence : Present
      • Problem Solving : Assessed
      • Adaptability : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Collaboration : Present
      • Relationship Building : Present
      • Negotiation : Present
  • Application
    • Commercial Acumen
      • Governance Awareness : Present
      • Business Planning : Present
    • Social Cultural Global Awareness : Assessed

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Opportunities to explore rich original sources.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1351A75unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M252000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes and develops key skills in research, reading and writing. Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress. The exam tests acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly and concisely.

ERASMUS students at Newcastle have the option of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of domestic students. If they wish to take up this option, they need to discuss it with the module leader. It remains the case that, if an ERASMUS student wishes to do the same assessment as the domestic students, that option remains open to them. No variation of the deadlines will be allowed except on production of medical or equivalent evidence.

Study Abroad students (i.e. non-EU exchange students) are required to complete the normal assessment under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Note: The Module Catalogue now reflects module information relating to academic year 15/16. Please contact your School Office if you require module information for a previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.