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Unit information: Slavery and the Modern World (Level I Lecture Response) in 2018/19

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Unit name Slavery and the Modern World (Level I Lecture Response)
Unit code HIST25003
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stone
Open unit status Not open




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


Slavery has existed throughout human history, and indeed even today there are thought to be more slaves in the world than there have been at any point in the past. Naturally, though, most people associate the word ‘slavery’ with the millions of Africans who were transported as slaves to the European colonies in the New World between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. While focusing primarily on this dark chapter of the development of the modern world, this unit will also seek to take a comparative approach: examining slavery on a global and trans-historical scale. Looking at slavery in societies as diverse as ancient South America, early modern Africa, and modern day Britain, we will ask what exactly ‘slavery’ is, and why it grew to an unprecedented scale at the dawn of the modern world. We will discuss a range of questions which still have significant political ramifications today: Why did transatlantic slavery develop? Were English indentured ‘slaves’ a viable alternative? What were the connections between modern theories of ‘race’ and the development of slavery? Did slavery fuel the British ‘Industrial Revolution’? Did it under-develop Africa? Why was slavery eventually abolished? What are the legacies of slavery?

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. deeper awareness of how to approach a long term historical analysis
  2. ability to set individual issues within their longer term historical context
  3. the ability to analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change
  4. ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points
  5. ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion
  6. ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint

Teaching details


1 x two-hour interactive lecture

1 x one-hour workshop

Assessment Details

1 x 3000 word essay (50%) and 1 x 2 hour exam (50%)

Reading and References

  • J. Walvin, Black Ivory: a History of British Slavery, (Oxford, 1992)
  • K. Morgan, Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America, (Edinburg, 2007).
  • Blackburn, R., The Making of New World Slavery: from the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 (London, 1997).
  • Davis, D. B., The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, 1966).
  • D. Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas, (Cambridge, 2000)
  • H. Klein, African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean, (Oxford, 1986)