Race and Slavery in the Americas

Term: Spring 2009

Subject Code: GHIS

Course Number: 5120

This seminar course explores the history of slavery and race in the Americas. When Europeans first colonised the New World they had no slave systems at home and their ideas of the �families of man� were quite distinct from modern racism. Yet the colonists soon faced a labour shortage and opted to buy captives on the coast of Africa and transport them to plantations and mines in the Americas � between 1500 and 1850 about 12 million slaves were purchased in Africa. The slave regime that developed became a major driver of Atlantic trade and supplied the ingredients of a new consumer capitalism. The slave systems were highly racialized. The different powers borrowed from one another but the pattern of slavery and race varied from one colony to the next in ways we will study. Despitethe great wealth produced by the slave systems they were to be overthrown or suppressed in one territory after another in the �century of abolition� 1788-1888. We will assess the contribution made to the suppression of slavery by black witness, slave resistance, abolitionism and the new doctrine of the �rights of man�. We will also look at how slave rebels and anti-slavery agitators managed to advance their cause in the great crises in the political order of the Atlantic world after 1776. The seminar will conclude by looking at the legacies of slavery and abolition, both in their immediate aftermath and today.

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