Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


HIST105 Early Modern Europe OR HIST106 Australian Indigenous Peoples Past and Present OR HIST115 Global History: Six Degrees of Separation OR POLS104 Introduction to International Relations

Unit rationale, description and aim

How did Spain rule over an immense global empire for more than three centuries given the absence of a standing army and the presence of stark inequalities? In this unit students will learn how historians have answered this enduring question, and will analyse a range of primary sources such as wills, artworks, and petitions to develop theories of their own. We explore the experience of empire from the perspectives of diverse groups of people including free and enslaved Africans, Indigenous men and women, mestizo soldiers, nuns, and colonial elites. By studying the writings of Andean intellectuals and the testimonies of slaves who took their masters to court or rose up in violent rebellions against the colonial order, students will develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of Spanish rule and its variations across time and place. We also consider the legacies of this global empire, and controversies about how we tell its history.

This course is chronologically and thematically organized. It begins in 1491, on the eve of the Iberian invasion of the Americas and the Caribbean, and ends in 1898, when Spain lost the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. The aim of this unit is to explore four myths about the global Spanish empire that persist in historiography and popular culture: the myth of colonial rule by coercion; the ‘commercial revolution’ and the myth of mobility; and the myth of imperial collapse. Key themes include the development of racial ideologies in the Iberian world, and their impact on the evolution of racial slavery.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Discuss broad and deep theoretical and factual knowledge of the global Spanish empire, and apply this to a variety of key conceptual approaches historians use to shape and debate interpretations of the pastGC1
LO2Explain ideas and concepts to a specified audience using audio, digital, oral, visual or written form as appropriateGC2, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO3Locate, evaluate and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials and use them to sustain a nuanced evidence-based narrative or argumentGC2, GC3, GC8, GC9, GC10
LO4Critically analyse historical evidence, synthesise scholarship and changing representations of the past according to the methodological and ethical conventions of the discipline through an independently formulated research task related to current historical debatesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC9, GC11
LO5Interpret and reflect on key historical theories and concepts and relate them to real-world situations/case studies where the relationship between history and myth has been contestedGC1, GC2


Topics will include:

  • The world in 1491
  • Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Indian Conquistadors
  • Spiritual conquests
  • The myth of the ‘Black Legend’
  • The Inquisition
  • Empire of law
  • Imperial Intermediaries
  • Capitalism and freedom
  • Slavery in the Iberian world
  • Age of revolutions
  • Latin America’s Wars for Independence
  • Modern empires: Cuba and the Philippines
  • The Ilustrados and Nationalism
  • 1898 and its aftermath

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. 

To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support student learning such as lectures and tutorials or workshops, supported by film/video screenings webinars, podcasts or online materials, when appropriate. The balance of the hours then becomes private study to prepare for class activities and complete set readings and assignments for this unit. 

This unit embraces active learning by taking the form of a face-to-face class containing activities through which students will:  

1) gain a deep understanding of the content covered in the unit. The active learning activities in this unit include reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving aimed at promoting analysis and synthesis of class content, paying particular attention to the dynamics of history and myth about relevant topics related to the Global Spanish Empire. Students will also use case studies to assist them in this process, exploring how what they have learned applies to real-world situations.  

2) develop and hone skills fundamental to the discipline of history, including the development of methods for working with and interpreting primary sources; the ability to identify relevant and high-quality secondary sources and incorporate them into their own research and analysis; the ability to process extensive amounts of historical information and identify what is most relevant and valuable; and to communicate their findings in a style appropriate to their audience.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Students will develop their research and writing skills through an investigative task where they will locate and analyse primary and secondary sources on key debates in relation to history and myth in relation to the Global Spanish Empire. This first task will hone students’ ability to work with and interpret evidence in primary and sources including maps, and assesses learning outcomes 1 and 2. 

The investigative task students will analyse and critically discuss evidence related to interpretations and presentations of the past. This may take the form of a research essay or another form, such as an exhibition, oral presentation or debate and will assess learning outcomes 1-4. 

The final ‘presenting the past’ task allows students to synthesise the key theories and debates of history and memory. It assesses how well students are able to draw together the skills developed in the investigative task, the research task and their knowledge of how the past is represented and interpreted by various stakeholders. The summative task assesses learning outcomes 2-5.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1: Map and Primary source task

This is a skills-based task where students will analyse and evaluate a range of primary sources and historic maps to complete a specified task/s.


LO1, LO2

Assessment Task 2: Investigative task

This task asks students to explore, analyse, and generate arguments about some of the complex and fascinating myths connected to the history of the Global Spanish Empire.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Assessment Task 3: Presenting the Past

This task develops student skills in transmitting knowledge to others in either written form.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Batrell. Ricardo A Black Soldier’s Story. The Narrative of Ricardo Batrell and the Cuban War of Independence. Ed. Mark A. Sanders. Minneapolis: London: University of Minnesota Press. 2010

Borucki, Alex;  David Eltis, David Wheat. “Atlantic History and the Slave Trade to Spanish America.” The American Historical Review, Vo; 120, No.2, 2015

Townsend, Camilla. Malintzin's Choices: An Indian Woman In The Conquest Of Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006)

Matthew, Laura E and Michel R. Oudijk (eds), Indian Conquistadors: Indigenous Allies in the Conquest of Mesoamerica, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007

Crewe, Ryan Dominic. "Transpacific Mestizo: Religion and Caste in the Worlds of a Moluccan Prisoner of the Mexican Inquisition." Itinerario 39, no. 3 (2016): 463-485.

Chuchiak, John F. IV  (ed) The Inquisition in New Spain, 1536-1820: A Documentary History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012

van Deusen, Nancy. Global Indios: The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016

Mangan, Jane (ed) Women in Colonial Latin America, 1526-1806. Texts and Contexts. Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company, 2018

Nygren, Barnaby. “They Had Fiery Eyes: Dogs, Fables, and History at La Casa Del Que Mató Al Animal.” Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture 5, no. 1 (2023): 30–47.

Yannakakis, Yanna. The Art of Being In-Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity And Local Rule In Colonial Oaxaca. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008

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