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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Sailing the Seas with Captain Cook

Instructor(s): Tillman Nechtman, History

This course is an interdisciplinary investigation of the maritime world that Captain Cook inhabited in the last half of the eighteenth century. Between 1768 and 1779, Captain Cook made three voyages into the Pacific, and those voyages changed world history.  Indeed, some have compared his voyages to the Apollo space program that first took humankind to the moon.  Cook, with a small crew, boarded wooden boats and floated off at the whim of the winds, knowing full well that there was a very real chance he would never return again. Students in the course will read memoirs and ships' logs from Cook and members of his crew in an effort to better understand them and their motivations.  Students will also study some of the technological skills that made eighteenth-century maritime exploration possible. Students will learn to measure latitude and longitude, they will investigate the horrific medical ramifications of naval diseases like scurvy, and like Cook's crew, they will spend time in the kitchen making batches of sauerkraut according to the eighteenth-century recipes to stave off the disease.  Finally, students in the class will spend time considering just how Captain Cook's voyages changed the way we see the world, how they opened up new landscapes and new people, how they all but defined our sense of the Pacific as a region, and how, for better or worse, those of us living with the ramifications of contemporary globalization really are sailing in Captain Cook's wake.

Course Offered: