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Unit information: Slavery in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Slavery
Unit code HIST10046
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Stone
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Slavery has shaped individuals, communities and nations for centuries with profound and enduring consequences. Evidence of unfree forms of labour exists in some of the earliest historical records, and today there are thought to be more people in bonded labour in the world than there have been at any point in the past. The word ‘slavery’, however, is most often associated with the Atlantic system, and the millions of Africans who were transported and enslaved in the European colonies in the New World between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. This unit will focus on the distinctive racialised form of slavery, which developed in the Americas, whilst also setting it in a global and trans-historical context.

The unit engages with four key aspects of slavery: the development of Atlantic slavery; the lived experience of enslaved people in the Americas; abolition and emancipation; and legacies and memories of slavery. It will ask: why did slavery become the predominant form of labour in the early Americas? To what extent was this a result of ideas of ‘race’? What forces shaped the way enslaved people were treated? How can we recover the experience of those who were enslaved? How and why was slavery brought to an end? Did slavery cause the Industrial Revolution in Britain? Should reparations be paid to the descendants of enslaved people? How has slavery shaped modern race relations? How should we memorialise slavery?

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyse key themes in the history of slavery in various contexts
  2. Discuss and evaluate the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  3. Interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  4. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level C.

Teaching Information


2 x one-hour lecture
1 x one-hour workshop
1 x one-hour seminar

Assessment Information

One summative essay (50%) (3000 words) [1-4]
One two-hour exam (50%) [1-4]

Reading and References

Ana Lucia Araujo, Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage, and Slavery, (New York, 2014)
Daina Berry, The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave in the Building of a Nation, (Boston, 2017)
Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, (Harvard, 2013)
Kenneth Morgan, Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America, (Oxford, 2007)
Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death, (Harvard, 1982)