Module Details

HR374-6-FY-CO: Slavery And Plantation Societies In Latin America

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Year: 2016/17
Department: History
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: Yes

Supervisor: Professor Matthias Röhrig Assunção
Teaching Staff: Professor Matthias Röhrig Assunção
Contact details: Belinda Waterman, Student Administrator, Department of History;

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

The great majority of the 12 million enslaved Africans deported to the Americas during the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries ended up working on plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean. Sugar, cacao, indigo, tobacco, cotton and coffee were the main commodities slaves produced for the rapidly expanding European markets. But slavery did not only provide crucial inputs for developing capitalism, it also entered cultural representations of the other. Enlightened writers reflected about its legitimacy or the fundamental differences between what was increasingly perceived as 'races'. Hence slavery in the Americas contributed in many ways to the making of the modern world.

The module will focus on the different plantation societies that were established in Brazil, British Jamaica, the French Caribbean (mainly 'Saint-Domingue', that is, present-day Haiti) and the Spanish colonies (Venezuela and Cuba). We will examine how local conditions (environment and geopolitics) and external factors (such as the demands on the world market, religion, law and customs of the colonial power, and the African cultural backgrounds of the slaves) combined to shape the characteristics of every slave society. Introductory lectures on each colony will be followed by comparative sessions dealing with slave-holding elites and social structure more generally, slave women and the slave family, as well as the religion and culture of the enslaved. In the last sessions we will look at runaways, plots, and rebellions and other means whereby slaves sought to obtain freedom. The work in class will mainly deal with documents written by travellers, priests, and government officials and, more exceptionally, by overseers and the enslaved themselves. The discussion of these primary sources will allow us to gain new insights into the everyday reality of slavery.

Learning and Teaching Methods

One-hour lecture and one-hour seminar per week.


50 per cent Coursework Mark, 50 per cent Exam Mark


Two essays and a seminar participation mark.

Exam Duration and Period

3:00 during Summer Examination period.

Further information