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Unit information: The History and Legacies of Slavery: Bristol and The World in 2018/19

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Unit name The History and Legacies of Slavery: Bristol and The World
Unit code MODLM0034
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stone
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


It is impossible to fully understand the history of people of African descent in the west without considering the impact of slavery. The forced movement of millions of people across the Atlantic to a life of enslavement in the New World colonies was a transformative moment, both for those involved, and in terms of shaping the lives of future generations right through to the present day.

It is a history which is also deeply bound up with the city of Bristol, which in its eighteenth-century ‘heyday’ was one of the most important centres for the transatlantic slave trade. The very fabric of Bristol is imbued with the ‘blood of slaves’. Money from both the slave trade and the wider slave economy found its way into every corner of the city’s life. Bristol, therefore, is an ideal place to study the history and legacies of slavery.

Using the city of Bristol as a window onto the broader history of slavery, this unit takes a transnational and transhistorical approach. We will consider the evolution of broader historical processes, and their local and personal impacts. Key areas of enquiry include: How does Atlantic slavery compare to other slave systems? What role did concepts of ‘race’ play in its evolution? What was the economic impact of slavery? How has it shaped the city of Bristol? How is slavery remembered in Bristol? What are the ongoing consequences of Atlantic slavery?

Intended learning outcomes

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

1. Identify and analyse key themes in the interlinked histories of slavery and the city of Bristol

2. Discuss and evaluate the debates that surround the topic

3. Work with primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate specific and more general points

4. Present research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to M Level.

Teaching details

Following the design of LRU based MA core units, this team taught unit will combine lecturing with seminar-style guided discussion with an emphasis on an interdisciplinary engagement with key contemporary texts. The unit may include some fieldwork and students may be required to do some informal group work (for example, short, informal presentations in class time). Students attendance at research seminars hosted by the Centre for Black Humanities will be expected and they will also be encouraged to engage with the field by visiting relevant exhibitions and events.

Assessment Details

5,000 word essay (100% UAM)

Reading and References

M. Dresser, Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol, (Bristol, 2007).

K. Morgan, Bristol and the Atlantic Trade in the Eighteenth Century, (Cambridge, 1993).

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

R. Stone, Bristol and the Birth of the Atlantic Economy, (Woodbridge, 2019)