Plas course Proposal Global History: Comparative World Slavery



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Comparative Slavery -

PLAS Course Proposal
Global History: Comparative World Slavery

This course will survey human bondage from the ancient world through the end of Atlantic slave trade and the abolition of African slavery in the Western Hemisphere in the end of the nineteenth century. This course has a broadly comparative approach, but emphasis will be placed on New World slavery from the enslavement of indigenous peoples of the Americans to the establishment, fall, and legacies of slave societies in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. We will study the practices, cultures, and politics of slavery, as well as processes of abolition and slaves’ own resistance to the institution. This course will end with an examination of how societies have memorialized and remembered—or forgotten about—slavery, focusing on the portrayals of slavery in film and popular literature, and the contemporary politics of historical memory and restitution.


General Education Requirement: This course meets three General Education Requirements.

It meets the “Analyzing Social Structures” Area requirement because it explore the political, economic, and social operations of a social institution and how that social institution is connected with governments and with the historical development of societies. Because it compares the institution of slavery in two continents, it meets the World Culture Context of Experience Context of Experiment requirement. Because the slave societies examined were pre-industrial, it meets the Pre-Industrial Extended Requirement.



Texts for this class will be available for purchase at the Queens College Bookshop. You will also find all of these texts on closed reserve at the library:
1. Natalie Zemon Davis, Slaves on Screen

2. Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study

3. John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800

4. Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, The Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800

5. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
There is also a required readings packet, which you may purchase at Iver Printing, 6703 Main Street, Flushing, NY (tel: 718-275-2070). A copy of this readings packet will also be on closed reserve in the library.
The following are requirements for this course.
1. Exam. You will be required to take one in-class, final exam, which will be given during the final examination period at the end of the semester. (The exact date, time, and place will be announced closer to the end of the semester.) This exam will be cumulative.
2. Written assignments.
a. Weekly reading responses (5). Each week, you will be responsible for submitting a typewritten, brief essay (of about one page, or 300 - 500 words) that responds to and reflects on the readings for that week. Please double-space your essay. This writing assignment is designed to help you focus your reading and our subsequent discussion of the texts. It is “your take” on what you have read, and I encourage you to be as creative and as critical as you like. The ideal reading response will touch on each text assigned for that week; this is your opportunity to synthesize the readings you have done for this class each week and put your own analytical spin on them. I encourage you, too, to bring into your weekly reading responses outside readings (either from other classes or ones that you are doing on your own) that relate to the texts you are reading for this class. Please bear in mind that this is a formal writing assignment; you are expected to take great care to express yourself with precision and grace, to substantiate any claims you make by citing the texts you have read, and to write a focused and well-organized essay. These assignments will be collected at the end of class, so that you may use them for reference (if you chose) during discussion. Although late reading responses will not be accepted, you are required to submit one during only five of our fourteen class sessions.
b. Primary Source Essays. This class requires that you submit two short (3-5-page) essays, in which you will be asked to use the readings that you are doing for this class to reflect on a particular primary source related to slavery. Please see below for due dates. I will provide the primary sources for all three assignments. You will need to use only your course readings for the first essay, but for the second essay you will be required to do some outside research. As the semester progresses, I will provide detailed guidelines for these writing assignments and some tips on how to go about writing them. Please note that late papers will not be accepted.

3. Readings: All readings are required. It is critical that you come to class having completed the readings indicated for that day and having given careful thought to what you’ve read.


attendance/ late policy. Please note that class participation accounts for 10% of your grade, and only if you attend class can you participate in it. If you need to miss class for a religious holiday or an emergent personal matter, please make every effort to come talk to me beforehand. Furthermore, please do not forget that learning is a collaborative effort; your attendance in class includes not simply showing up but also participating actively in the group learning endeavor.
Please observe the due dates listed on this syllabus carefully, as late work will be marked down at the rate of one grade per day.
academic honesty. I expect you to adhere rigorously to a high standard of academic honesty. Plagiarism will result in a grade of F for the assignment in question, and your case will be reported to the Dean.

The breakdown of your grade for this course is as follows:

Primary source essays: 40% (20% each)

Weekly reading responses: 20%

Final exam: 30%

Class participation: 10%

The following is a day-by-day schedule of topics we will cover in class and the corresponding readings assigned for each day.
Each reading below with an asterisk (*) beside it can be found in your readings packet.

Week One: Introduction to the Study of Slavery: Special Challenges


No readings.

Week Two: Generalizing about Slavery and the Problem of Comparison


Start Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death

Week Three: Greek and Roman Slavery


Finish Patterson, Slavery and Social Death

*M. I. Finley, “The Emergence of a Slave Society”

*Selection from Weidemann, Greek and Roman Slavery

Week Four: Barbary Coast Captives

Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters




Week Five: African Slavery in Africa


John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1-98.

Week Six: The Impact of the Slave Trade on Africa


*Martin A. Klein, “The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on the Societies of the Western Sudan”

Week Seven: Origins of the Transatlantic Slave System


John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 99-334.

First primary source essay due.

Week Eight: Forced Labor of Indigenous Peoples of the New World

*José Cuello, “The Persistence of Indian Slavery and Encomienda in the Northeast of Colonial Mexico, 1577-1723,” Journal of Social History 21:4 (Summer 1988): 683-700

*Zbigniew Mazur, “‘Compelled to Servitude and Drudgery’: Indians and the Development of the Institutions of Unfree Labor in Early Colonial Virginia,” American Studies [Poland] 13 (1994): 73-83




Week Nine: North American Slavery


Douglass, Narrative

*Robin Winks, “Slavery in New France, 1628-1760" from The Blacks in Canada



optional: *Theda Perdue, “Cherokee Planters, Black Slaves, and African Colonization,” Chronicles of Oklahoma 60:3 (1982): 322-331.

Week Ten: Latin American Slavery

*Stuart Schwartz, “Rethinking Palmares: Slave Resistance in Colonial Brazil”

* “Slavery and Church Doctrine: The Archbishop of Bahia Rules on Slave Evangelization and Aspects of Their Treatment (1707)”

*“Slavery Laws” (series or primary sources pertaining to nineteenth-century Puerto Rico




Week Eleven: The Haitian Revolution:

*Geggus, Chapter One of Haitian Revolutionary Studies


*Michel-Rolph Triollot, “The Three Faces of Sans-Souci” and “An Unthinkable History”

Week Twelve: The Movement to End the Atlantic Slave Trade


*Oloudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative (excerpts)

*David Brion Davis, “The Uncertain Antislavery”


Second primary source essay due.




Week Thirteen: Legacies of Slavery: Post-Abolition Societies

*Diana Paton, “The Penalties of Freedom: Punishment in Postemancipation Jamaica,” in Salvatore, Aguirre, and Joseph, 275-307)

*Seymour Drescher, “The Ending of the Slave Trade and the Evolution of European Scientific Racism”




Week Fourteen: Slavery and the Politics of Historical Memory


Natalie Davis, Slaves on Screen

PLUS, choose one of the following three articles:

*“Afro-Creole Social Consciousness Movements”:

*Aimé Cesaire, “Discourse on Colonialism”

*Leonard E. Barrett, Sr., “Understanding the Rastafarians”


Final exam: date, time, and place to be announced by college.


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