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Unit information: Remembering Transatlantic Enslavement in 2020/21

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Unit name Remembering Transatlantic Enslavement
Unit code HIST20122
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jessica Moody
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

Generations of enslaved African people and their descendants were tortured and exploited through systems of plantation enslavement in the US, Caribbean and South America well into the 19th century. The profits from these systems brought wealth, trade and cultural prestige to Europe and America. How should such a dissonant past be remembered in contemporary society? How can such traumatic experiences with such intense contemporary legacies concerning race and discrimination be appropriately represented through public history, museums and memorialisation? This unit explores the public memory of transatlantic enslavement in the Atlantic world, and may cover topics such as the slave forts in West Africa, Plantation Museums in America, public art and memorials in the Caribbean, and more recent efforts to face this difficult past in Europe including the marking of anniversaries, walking tours, ceremony and ritual, art as public history and ongoing debates over apologies, reparations and the (re)naming of civic sites and buildings.

The unit has one local field trip in which students will critically analyse Bristol’s public memory of enslavement.

This unit aims to:

1. Introduce students to the public memory of transatlantic enslavement in Europe, Africa and the Americas including how this has changed over time

2. Provide students with a number of in depth case studies which contextualise specific efforts to represent this past, placing these in temporal and geographical context

3. Introduce students to different types of public history initiatives and enable them to evaluate their effectiveness

4. Explore historic and contemporary debates over the representation of enslavement

5. Develop students’ skills in approaching public history, museums and memorials as primary sources

6. Develop students’ skills in critical reading and thinking, presentation and discussion appropriate to Level I/5

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the different ways in which the history of transatlantic enslavement features within public memory in Europe, Africa and the Americas
  2. Demonstrate an awareness of the chronological development of the public history of enslavement in these areas
  3. Analyse the cultural, geographic and political differences and contexts between efforts to memorialise enslavement around the Atlantic world
  4. Critically evaluate public debates, stand points and positions over a contested history
  5. Present well-founded and supported arguments and viewpoints on different approaches to the public memory of enslavement through individual analysis
  6. Analyse and research elements of public history by using primary sources and integrating this into wider historiographical scholarship

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 3500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-6]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-6]

Reading and References

Araujo, Ana Lucia. Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage, and Slavery. New York: Routledge, 2014

Otele, O (2012) 'Bristol, slavery and the politics of representation: the Slave Trade Gallery in the Bristol Museum.' Social Semiotics, 22 (2). pp. 155-172

Donington, Katie, Ryan Hanley and Jessica Moody (eds) Britain’s History and Memory of Slavery: local nuances of a ‘national sin’. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2016

Horton, James Oliver, and Lois E. Horton. Slavery and public history: the tough stuff of American memory. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009

Kowaleski Wallace, Elizabeth. The British Slave Trade and Public Memory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006

Rice, Alan. Creating Memorials Building Identities: The politics of memory in the Black Atlantic. Liverpool: LUP, 2010

Wood, Marcus. Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780-1865. Manchester: MUP, 2000