A Nautical History of the World

  • Instructor Dr. Kristin Krause
  • Code WH75S
  • Student Ages 10–14
  • Term Spring Semester 2024
  • Day Wednesday
  • Time 12:00 P.M.


Vikings, pirates, explorers, traders, whalers, and mariners!

Boats are the easiest way to travel, and humans have employed them since our earliest days to transport materials, armies, colonists, and ideas. It is the movement of people and ideas that makes history. Thus, the history of the world may be viewed as a nautical history.

Greek triremes, Viking longships, Chinese junks, Arab dhows, the British man-o-war, and the American clipper ship—each of these defined their eras and changed the course of history. Students will learn about these vessels and how each new technology—such as the rudder, the compass, a cure for scurvy, and a method for deducing longitude—allowed people to travel faster and farther than before. Along the way, they will meet some unforgettable characters in the watery world: Hanno the Navigator, Leif Erikson, Francis Drake, Captain Bligh, Ernest Shackleton, and others.

As humans contemplate interplanetary voyages and Martian colonies, there is much to be learned from the long-distance voyagers who preceded us.

Class Meetings: Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Dates: January 10 – May 8

Student Expectations: There will be weekly readings, puzzles, and activities. Students will label maps, learn a bit about navigation, and try their hand at scrimshawing a bar of soap. Because there is a rich literature associated with the sea, students will also choose one book to read and write a book report about it, due at the end of the semester.

Student Support: The instructor is available by email.

Feedback/Assessment: Feedback will be provided on all assignments.

Materials/Supplies: A paperback book of the student’s choosing


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