Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights: the New World Crucible

Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GHIS

Course Number: 5120

This course surveys the whole trajectory of racial slavery in the New World from the sixteenth century to the last emancipations in Cuba and Brazil in the 1880s. The growth of consumer capitalism in Europe led to rising demand for tobacco, sugar and cotton and an acute labour shortage in the plantation zone. The different Atlantic powers strove to become the largest suppliers and were prepared to buy captive Africans to staff their plantations. The course will seek to explain why Europeans resorted to enslavement in the Americas when were moving away from unfree labour at home. The ideas of 'race' elaborated in the "baroque" empires of the Iberian peninsula and France will be contrasted to the commercial and Protestant ethos of the English and Dutch and their justifications for racial slavery. Contrasts between the slave regimes in North America, the Caribbean and South America will be explored. The contribution of slavery to the Rise of the West will be re-assessed in the light of new evidence. This course is offered primarily as a Lang undergraduate course, but is open to 5 graduate students at NSSR.


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