Oceanic history—specified here as the maritime history of the Atlantic—provides an overall frame of reference for European overseas commercial expansion between Columbus’s discovery of America and the Napoleonic Wars. Statesmen, bureaucrats, scientists, shipowners, and merchants from Britain, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Portugal were the main players in the navigation, charting, and exploration of oceanic routes. Their endeavors underpinned the migration of thousands of Europeans to the New World in the early modern era and the establishment of settler colonies in the Americas. Many historians have contributed to the study of oceanic history in relation to these themes in the history of the Atlantic world. Some historians have been genuinely interdisciplinary in their investigations, drawing upon a range of methodologies to illuminate the history of chart making, navigation, and exploration and the ideas that promoted colonization. Other scholars, however, have plowed narrower furrows with the unfortunate result that important aspects of oceanic history—notably navigation and cartography—are sometimes examined without contextual reference to mainstream historical investigations. With the early 21st-century emphasis on transnational history and on Atlantic history as important fields of historical enquiry, more sophisticated, holistic considerations of oceanic maritime history have been published, as evidenced by recent books mentioned in this entry.
Article. 7588 words.
Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History
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