ML1364: Slavery, Abolitionism and the Black Atlantic: A Transnational Perspective

School Hispanic Studies
Department Code MLANG
Module Code ML1364
External Subject Code 100310
Number of Credits 30
Level L6
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Dr Jennifer Nelson
Semester Double Semester
Academic Year 2020/1

Outline Description of Module

The module is designed to introduce students to the comparative study of the slave trade, antislavery and abolitionism. Drawing from the foundational works of historians and theorists such as Manuel Barcia, Ada Ferrer, Josep Fradera, Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, the module will go beyond national and local historical narratives, fomenting a dialogue between Spanish and Portuguese-speaking historiographies and their Francophone and Anglophone counterparts. Building on students’ knowledge from their studies in year one and two, the module will critically examine connections across the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean and to Latin America and discuss to what extent slavery and its consequences have shaped and continue to shape these regions, engaging with key theoretical and historical debates. We will examine the historical context with an emphasis on the nineteenth century, as well as addressing postcolonial legacies (of race, gender, and identity), and the memory and memorialisation of slavery, primarily through archival documents, literature, visual and material culture. The teaching and learning in the module will highlight specific events and developments such as the Haitian Revolution, key conspiracies and slave revolts, and the British campaign against the slave trade, as well as showing how these had profound repercussions from one plantation, Atlantic port city, and even from one colony to another.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  • Describe the cultural and historical importance of the connections between Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas.
  • Draw comparative analogies across time and space and demonstrate the ability to tackle problems of continuity and change over time. 
  • Discuss the influence of slavery and the slave trade in the development of the modern world.
  • Show enhanced cultural sensitivity and awareness of ethical, social and cultural considerations related to the study of slavery.

How the module will be delivered

The module will be taught through a blend of live online classes and guided, interactive online tasks and activities, designed to fulfil the learning outcomes. These will be delivered remotely, and on-campus if the University deems it safe and practicable.


Skills that will be practised and developed

  • Using a variety of texts to enhance understanding of the history of slavery and abolition in different contexts.
  • Presentation skills and ability to present arguments in written and spoken format.
  • Critical engagement with theoretical, conceptual and historical issues.
  • Essay writing and short report writing skills.
  • Analysis of historical documents and artefacts.


How the module will be assessed

The method(s) of assessing the learning outcomes for this module are set out in the Assessment Table, which also contains the weightings of each assessment component.


You may be required to resit one or more of the assessments in this module if you fail the module. The Examination Board will advise you which assessments you need to resit during the August resit period. Resit assessments that are not supported by extenuating circumstances will be capped at the pass mark applicable to your programme.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs)
Written Assessment 50 Essay N/A
Written Assessment 25 Report/Vlog/Blog N/A
Presentation 15 Group Presentation N/A
Portfolio 10 Participation In Online Discussion Boards N/A

Syllabus content

Topics and themes to include:

  • Slavery and the slave trade in Spanish America, Brazil and the Caribbean
  • Race and resistance
  • Maroons/runaway slave communities   
  • Emancipation 
  • Discourses around slavery and abolition     
  • British abolitionism, antislavery and empire     
  • The Atlantic World and Atlantic port cities     
  • Legacies of slavery and the slave trade   
  • Colonial legacies 
  • Hybridity and cultural exchange between Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean   
  • Disease, religion, identity, cultural expression, memory
  • Slave trade memory politics                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Essential Reading and Resource List

A detailed list of readings will be provided on Learning Central. An indicative reading list is provided below:

Barcia, Manuel, Seeds of Insurrection. Domination and Resistance on Western Cuban Plantations, 1808-1848. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.   

Chalhoub, Sidney, Visões da Liberdade. Uma historia das últimas décadas da escravidão na Corte, Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 1990.

Childs, Matt D., The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery, University of North Carolina Press, 2006.  

Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004.   

Ferrer, Ada, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 

Fradera, Josep M., and Chistopher Schmidt-Nowara, eds., Slavery and Antislavery in Spain’s Atlantic Empire. New York: Berghahn, 2013. 

Frank, Zephyr L., Dutra’s World. Wealth and Family in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro, University of New Mexico Press, Alburquerque, 2004.

Gilroy, Paul, The Black Atlantic : Modernity and Double Consciousness. London; New York : Verso, 1993.

Hall, Gwendolyn M.: Social Control in Slave Plantation Societies, a Comparison of St. Domingue and Cuba, Johns Hopkins University Press, Louisiana State University Press, Baltimore, 1996.

Frith, Nicola, and Kate Hodgson, eds. At the Limits of Memory: Legacies of Slavery in the Francophone World. Oxford University Press, 2015.

James, C.L.R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. London: Penguin Books, 2001..

Landers, Jane G., and Robinson, Barry M., eds., Slaves, Subjects and Subversives. Blacks in Colonial Latin America, University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

Miller, Christopher L. The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

Murray, David R., Odious commerce. Britain, Spain and the abolition of the Cuban slave trade. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1995.

Background Reading and Resource List

A detailed list of background reading and resources will be provided on Learning Central. 

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