Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30S3: Encountering Abolition in the Atlantic World, c. 1807-1870

Department: History

HIST30S3: Encountering Abolition in the Atlantic World, c. 1807-1870

Type Open Level 3 Credits 60 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • •A pass mark in at least TWO level two modules in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop advanced reading of different types of primary material;
  • To develop an advanced understanding of the history
  • To evaluate critically the opinions of scholars


  • Britain’s parliamentary act to abolish the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 is a standard reference point in heroic histories of slavery and abolition. But much less is known about the consequences of enforcing that act in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Enforcement required huge investment in colonial and naval forces to try to stop slave ships from crossing the Atlantic; it caused a build-up of slaves on the African coast because some traders could no longer sell them overseas; it prompted other traders to develop a huge illegal slave trade to Brazil and Cuba; and it generated new forms of bonded labour (such as indenture) in the Americas to replace the diminishing supply of slaves. These changes altered Britain’s political and commercial relationships with Africa and the Americas. Instead of a heroic history, this Special Subject envisages transatlantic abolition as an encounter between British agents and the rulers, traders, slaves, and free(d) peoples of different Atlantic societies. How did Britain’s colonial empire adapt to accommodate the influx of slaves from captured ships? How did political authorities in Africa and Latin America respond to British demands for abolition? And what did the slaves make of the transformations wrought by abolition?
  • We will explore these questions using sources such as slave narratives, political pamphlets, travel literature, and missionary correspondence. By 1850, the enforcement of abolition had contributed to the build-up of more slaves in Africa than in the Americas, and set off new mass migrations of indentured labourers from India, Africa, and elsewhere to the Caribbean. Through this course, students will examine how abolishing the transatlantic slave trade produced new modes of encounter, empire, and labour in the Atlantic world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand in detail the histories of slavery and abolition in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world in particular, and of the histories of West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean more generally
  • Understand various approaches to studying slavery and abolition, and related historiographical and conceptual debates
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Critically analyze primary sources relating to slavery and abolition, using them to explore complex historical problems
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals;
  • tutorials either individually or in groups to discuss topics arising from prepared work, allowing students the opportunity to reflect upon their personal learning with the tutor.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources;
  • Assessment of Primary Source Handling Students are assessed on their understanding of original primary sources, usually in print, their character varying according to the nature of the subject, and the students' ability to bring that knowledge to bear on 'cutting edge 'research-based monographs and articles. Students are given the opportunity to discuss and articulate an understanding of changing interpretations and approaches to historical problems, drawing evidence from a body of primary source materials. Students are required to demonstrate skills associated with the evaluation of a variety of primary source materials, using documentary analysis for a critical assessment of existing historical interpretations

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 Termly in Terms 1 & 2 30 mins 1
Seminars 19 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 3 hours 57
Revision Sessions 1 Revision 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 540

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 maximum of 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 34%
Essay 2 maximum of 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 34%
Source Commentary maximum of 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 32%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen Examination 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of not more than 2500 words (not including footnotes and bibliography); preparation to participate in seminar and tutorials; at least one oral presentation, and practice source/gobbet work.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University