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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Revolution and the End of Slavery in the British and French Atlantic Worlds (HIST10404)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryIn this documents-based course students will compare the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), which led to the first complete abolition of slavery in world history and produced the world's first black republic, with the more top-down process of abolition in the British Empire. Students will also investigate the interaction of and connections between the two processes. The course will begin with an assessment of the British and French Atlantic slave systems, before examining the causes, process, and consequences of the revolution in Haiti, the debates and controversies in Britain and the slave colonies that led up to emancipation, and the immediate aftermath of emancipation. We will also consider how the history of slavery and its abolition is remembered or forgotten in today's world.
Course description The abolition of slavery was a crucial part of the Age of Revolution and the shift towards societies dominated by liberal ideas. This course enables students to study the process in depth in the societies of the British and French Atlantic Empires. We will consider debates about slavery and race in metropolitan Britain and France as well as the process and outcome of emancipation in the Caribbean colonies. Central questions for students to consider include: Why did slave emancipation take place at the time and in the manner that it did? What can we learn about the cultures and world views of enslaved people and former slaves from what we know about how they acted in the process of achieving freedom? What were the gains and limits of emancipation? What difference did revolutionary compared to state-led abolition make to the nature of post-slave society?

Students will engage with a range of primary sources, some published in collections of translated sources; others available through electronic collections of original documents and through the course leader's personal collection. They will bring these into dialogue with the work of a range of historians working within different historiographical traditions. This will allow them to appreciate a variety of approaches to understanding, constructing, and interpreting the past. As well as traditional essays, students will be expected to edit a primary source and produce a group presentation as part of the assessment.

Indicative course outline:

1. Introduction
Part One: Before Abolition
2. The lay of the land and sea: comparative and connected histories
3. Enslaved Lives in the Caribbean
4. The Caribbean, creolization, and 'modernity'
5. The Enlightenment and Early Critiques of Slavery
6. The Planter Intellectuals

Part Two: The Haitian Revolution
7. The Haitian Revolution: social groups, key events, and chronology
8. The revolution of 1791 and the abolition of slavery
9. Historiographical approaches to the Haitian Revolution, and the Revolution after Abolition
10. Remembering and narrating the revolution
11. Revolution in the wider Caribbean

Part 3: British and French Abolition
12. The British slavery debates after the Haitian Revolution
13. Reforming Slavery
14. John Canoe/ Jonkanoo: interpreting 'African' culture in the Caribbean
15. Slaveholders, Enslaved Rebels and the 'Death Struggles of Slavery'
16. British Abolition and the apprenticeship System

Part 4: After Slavery
17. The revolutions of 1848 and abolition in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana
18. Explaining abolition: economic, political and cultural approaches
19. Haiti after Slavery
20. Plantations, Peasants and Citizens
21. Indentured Labour
22. Memory and Forgetting
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.
Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate command of a substantial body of historical knowledge
  2. Develop and sustain historical arguments in a variety of literary forms, formulating appropriate questions and utilizing evidence.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the varieties of approaches to understanding, constructing, and interpreting the past; and where relevant, knowledge of concepts and theories derived from the humanities and the social sciences.
  4. Address historical problems in depth, involving the use of contemporary sources and advanced secondary literature
  5. Demonstrate clarity, fluency, and coherence in written and oral expression
Reading List
Blackburn, Robin. The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848. London: Verso, 1988.
da Costa, Emilia Viotti, Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood: The Demerara Slave Rebellion of 1823 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
Dubois, Laurent and John D. Garrigus. Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History with Documents. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004.
Fick, Carolyn E. The Making of Haiti: the Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990.
Hall, Catherine, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830-1867.
Holt, Thomas, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. London: Allison & Busby, 1980.
Mintz, Sidney and Richard Price, The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History.
Turner, Mary, Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society.
Williams, Eric, Capitalism and Slavery (1944).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - ability to draw valid conclusions about the past
- ability to identify, define and analyse historical problems
- ability to select and apply a variety of critical approaches to problems informed by uneven evidence
- ability to exercise critical judgement in creating new understanding
- ability to extract key elements from complex information
- readiness and capacity to ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry
- ability to search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding
- recognition of the importance of reflecting on one's learning experiences and being aware of one's own particular learning style
- openness to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking
- ability to identify processes and strategies for learning
- independence as a learner, with readiness to take responsibility for one's own learning, and commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement
- ability to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought.
- ability to test, modify and strengthen one's own views through collaboration and debate
- intellectual curiosity
- ability to make effective use of oral, written and visual means convey understanding of historical issues and one's interpretation of them.
- ability to marshal argument lucidly and coherently
- ability to collaborate and to relate to others
- readiness to seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness
- ability to articulate one's skills as identified through self-reflection
- a command of bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in reading and textual analysis
- close reading of texts
- an ability to produce coherent and well presented text, sometimes of considerable length
- an ability to produce text to meet standard presentational specifications as laid out in a style sheet
- an ability to make effective presentations, perhaps using audio visual support
Course organiserProf Diana Paton
Tel: (0131 6)50 4578
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Samson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3783
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