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Unit information: Comparative American 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 Comparative American Slavery
Unit code HIST30092
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Wallace
Open unit status Not open




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


‘Comparative American Slavery’ examines the evolution of European ideas of slavery and race by exploring the development and dissolution of various Atlantic slave systems in Mainland North America, South America, and the Caribbean. The demographic fate of enslaved persons and their experiences of the infamous Middle Passage comprise the early discussion before the focus traverses the Atlantic to examine slavery in the Americas. The formation of racialised perceptions of identity and nationhood and how the beginnings of consumer society and other modern processes ensured slavery was expanded and secured are considered, located against the broader development of Atlantic slavery. The experiences of enslaved persons in the Americas – the labour they were expected to perform, laws that governed their lives, and treatment at the hands of slave masters and mistresses – is contrasted against the rich cultural and community lives enslaved persons were able to develop in the midst of adversity. Through engagement with primary and secondary materials, students will connect and critically examine with historiographical debates over comparative slavery, evaluating the complex experiences of enslaved life and the nuances of political, economic and cultural changes in Atlantic slave systems.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:
1) Locate key concepts of nation, race, and ethnicity within the historical context of the early Atlantic through to the nineteenth century.
2) Summarise and evaluate secondary sources, and define and apply the critical concepts contained within them.
3) Critically analyse a range of primary sources and connect them to their historical context and relevant theoretical material on slavery.
4) Make meaningful reflections on slavery and the long-term impact of emancipation, and present these in a scholarly manner appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching details

1 x two-hour interactive lecture

1 x one-hour workshop

Assessment Details

One 3000 word summative essay (50%). [ILOs 1-4.]

One two hour-exam (50%). [ILOs 1-4.]

Reading and References

  • Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death
  • David Eltis, Frank D Lewis, Kenneth Lee Sokoloff (eds), Slavery in the development of the Americas
  • David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: the Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
  • Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom
  • Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History
  • Ana Lucia Araujo, Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History