Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

The Art of Exploration HISTART4086

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines the role of the visual arts in the late eighteenth-century exploration and European settlement of the Pacific, though a close focus on James Cook's voyages in the region. Looking closely at the work of the draughtsmen and painters who travelled with Cook, such as Sydney Parkinson, William Hodges and John Webber, alongside domestic reflections on the newly 'discovered' islands and islanders of the South Seas, it addresses the complex interactions of art and colonial enterprise in the period.


1 x 1 hour lecture;

1 x 1 hour seminar over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History of Art, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation

Excluded Courses





Essay (2000 words) - 60%

Presentation (10 minutes) - 10%

Visual Test (1 hour) - 30%

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Introduce students to the relationship between 'art' and 'science' in the late eighteenth century

■ Encourage students to examine these developments in the light of recent academic approaches to the art and culture of the period

■ Relate the art and culture of the Cook voyages to a wider social and imperial history

■ Develop student's critical attitude towards received historiographic analyses of the material discussed and, by extension, related areas of art-historical inquiry

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Identify and evaluate the major objects discussed

■ Discuss these objects within the wider thematic framework

■ Analyse the relationship between art and exploration in the late eighteenth century as well as its historical contexts

■ Critically evaluate some of the ways in which past accounts of the material discussed have affected understanding of it, especially in the light of current concerns with decolonising the curriculum

■ Organise this knowledge and understanding within a coherent argument and present this argument in written form

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.