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HIST2226 The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Abolition in West Africa

Module Overview

This module is dedicated to the history of the transatlantic slave trade, in whose course more than 11 million people were forcefully transported from Africa to the Americas. Its temporal focus lies upon the late 18th and the early 19th centuries, when the transatlantic slave trade reached its peak and the abolitionist movement gained momentum. The module draws attention to various parts of the Atlantic world in order to identify different types of involvement into the slave business, and to understand its implications on a local as well as on a global level. A special focus lies upon West Africa, where a closer look at slaving ports and their hinterlands reveals modes of African and European interaction and consequences of the strong expansion of enslavement and slave trade. The research perspective then follows the routes over the Atlantic, and the course sheds light on the life and work of slaves in the Caribbean, using different source material on an exemplary basis. A second strand of this module inquires into the agency of enslaved people and the formation of the abolitionist movement. Focusing once again on West Africa, the course takes a closer look at the Sierra Leone settlement and the implications of the 1807 Slave Trade Act, including the British policing of the West African coast and the gradual transition to colonialism. Whereas the lectures provide an introduction into larger historical contexts and historiographical debates, the seminars aim at working closely on case studies using to a large extent primary sources of both European and African origin.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Gain knowledge about the history of transatlantic slave trade and abolition Train in the analysis of primary source material and its various forms of subjectivity Learn to apply a multi-scale approach to the understanding of complex historical processes Improve understanding of theoretical concepts and critically reflect upon their applicability Cultivate reflection on, and discussion of historiographical interpretations Develop an adequate language to speak and write about sensitive historical topics

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Key developments and characteristics of the transatlantic slave trade and abolition in West Africa in the period under consideration
  • Key primary sources on the history slave trade and slavery in the Atlantic world
  • Individual and collective agency and the diverse ways African and European societies responded to the slave trade and its abolition
  • Ambivalence of the British politics of slave trade abolition in West Africa
  • Diverse metrics for evaluating historical change, including economic, political, social, and cultural factors
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically use primary source material
  • Identify and summarize key arguments in research literature
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Cautiously use subjective source material and uncover manipulative rhetoric
  • Deploy a multi-scale approach to the understanding of entangled histories in the Atlantic world
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a depth of knowledge and insight about transatlantic slave trade and abolition
  • Critically interpret tendentious primary source material
  • Draw on your acquired knowledge and insights in academic and public discussions


An indicative list of the topics are: Historiographical debates and methodology Europe and the transatlantic slave business Slave Trading in West Africa The Middle Passage Plantation economy and slave work Resistance against slave trade and slavery The rise of abolitionism and the role of former slaves Sugar boom and sugar boycotts Sierra Leone Policing the African coasts Long-term perspectives: transition to colonialism and rise of racism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

weekly lectures which provide an introduction into theoretical concepts, historical contexts, and historiographical debates weekly seminars centred on the study of primary sources and discussion of research literature one-on-one appointments to provide guidance and feedback on research and writing

Assessment tasks50
Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Independent Study20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Braidwood, Stephen, Black Poor and White Philanthropists: London’s Blacks and the Foundation of the Sierra Leone Settlement 1786-1791, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1994. 

Lovejoy, Paul, and Suzanne Schwarz (eds.), Slavery, Abolition, and the Transition to Colonialism in Sierra Leone, Trenton: Africa World Press, 2015. 

Bellagamba, Alice, Sandra E. Greene and Martin A. Klein (eds.), African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade: Vol. 1, Cambridge: CUP, 2013. 

Miers, Suzanne, and Richard Roberts (eds.), The End of Slavery in Africa, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 

Everill, Bronwen, Abolition and Empire in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 

Eltis, David, and David Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. 

Law, Robin (ed.), The British Transatlantic Slave Trade, vol. 1: The Operation of the Slave Trade in Africa, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2003. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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