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

Undergraduate Course: Slavery and Forced Labour in the British Atlantic World (HIST10488)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will ask how early modern people defined, applied, and resisted coercion in labour relations in the British Atlantic world context. We will place transatlantic chattel slavery at the core of the course and also consider indigenous slavery, compulsory agrarian and domestic service, convict labour, indentured servitude, pauper apprenticeship, prostitution, and military and naval conscription. Students will learn the many ways in which historians approach the problem of forced labour.
Course description The first part of this course focuses on labour coercion in terms of belonging and exclusion in communities in the British Isles, West Africa, and Indigenous America. Particular focus will be on agrarian, domestic, and military labour. We will challenge the presiding impression that Europe was a place of liberty while Africa and America were places of slavery. The second part of the course focuses on the commodification of labour, especially in long-distance transportation, foregrounding the transatlantic and Indigenous slave trades. Students will learn how traders in captives used violence, displacement, broken kin ties, and imprisonment to establish slavery. Enslaved people's suffering, coping, resistance, and rebellion took as many various forms, making it impossible for enslavers to forget their victims' humanity. The third part of the course will consider the role of coerced laborers in the process of colonisation. Enslaved and forced labour altered natural environments as well as political systems. Work, from the construction of plantations to the overfishing of the sea, contributed to indigenous dispossession and further coercion of indigenous labour, and enabled and accelerated the rise of racial capitalism, with implications on all sides of the Atlantic rim. The course then ends at the Age of Revolutions, treating the role of labour coercion and resistance not only in political and social revolutions, but also in the industrial revolution and attendant environmental change.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
1,000 word essay plan and annotated bibliography (10%)
4,000 word essay (70%)

Non-Written Skills:
Class Participation (20%)
Feedback Students are expected to discuss their coursework with the Course Organiser at least once prior to submission, and are encouraged to do so more often. Meetings can take place with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment. Students will also receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate competence in core skills in the study of history: essay-writing, independent reading, group discussion, listening, and public speaking
  2. Recognize and reflect critically on a variety of approaches to Atlantic history and labour history
  3. Demonstrate awareness of the many historical modes and processes of labour coercion; their continuity and change over time; and their contribution to the shape of the global, capitalist economy
  4. Assess the value and limitations of various types of primary sources for the study of the early modern Atlantic world
Reading List
Barry Levy, Town Born: The Political Economy of New England from Its Founding to the Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).

Jennifer L. Morgan, Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021).

Margaret Ellen Newell, Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015).

Alexandra Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Robert J. Steinfeld, The Invention of Free Labor: The Employment Relation in English and American Law and Culture, 1350-1870 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

Christopher L. Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills -A questioning disposition and the ability to formulate and pursue clearly defined questions and enquiries

-Analytical ability, and the capacity to consider and solve problems, including complex problems to which there is no single solution

-Structure, coherence, clarity, and fluency of oral and written expression, marshalling relevant evidence

-The ability to read and analyse texts and other primary sources, both critically and empathetically, while addressing questions of genre, content, perspective, and purpose

-A command of comparative and connective perspectives, including the ability to compare the histories of different societies and cultures
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sonia Tycko
Tel: (0131 6)50 4402
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Samson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3783
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