Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module SPAN3391: Africa and Africans in Iberian Empires

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Spanish)

SPAN3391: Africa and Africans in Iberian Empires

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None


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Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To study an often-overlooked corner of Spanish and Portuguese Empires - West and West Central Africa - from an approach that includes but does not limit itself to the study of slavery or of enslaved Africans in the Americas.
  • To understand the history of slavery, Iberian colonialism on the African continent, resulting processes of creolization and the way these historical and cultural phenomena have shaped the modern Atlantic world, especially when it comes to the production of racial difference.
  • Think about the specificity of the late medieval and early modern periods as a way of thinking about the historical contingency itself, of how things could have and can still be otherwise.


  • Written sources like narrative accounts, literary sources, missionary letters, inquisitorial cases and documents from the Iberian Peninsula, West and West Central Africa, and several Ibero-American viceroyalties dating to the late medieval and early modern periods.
  • Visual and material culture from the same regions and period.
  • Secondary sources that engage with historiographical, theoretical and public debates on the limits and importance of imperial archives for the study of colonized and enslaved people; debates over the relationship between empire, slavery and early capitalism; histories of race and blackness; theories of creolization, agency and resistance in the Afro-Iberian Atlantic.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students are expected to:
  • have a basic understanding of Iberian imperial and commercial histories on the African continent and of Afro-diasporic histories on the Iberian Peninsula and in Latin America.
  • Understand the forms of African intellectual, artistic and cultural production that we find in these archives and also the general patterns that informed representations of Africans and Africa in imperial, commercial, legal and missionary discourse.
  • Be familiar with the aforementioned historiographical and theoretical debates as they unfold in both public-facing and academic venues, to understand the conventions and politics that shape these debates.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students are expected to be able to:
  • Identify and interpret different kings of archival, literary and other cultural objects, speak to the specific conditions of their production and the politics of how we read them today.
  • Speak in an informed and thoughtful manner about the contemporary relevance of the histories examined.
  • Have a greater proficiency in research management, including the search and analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will have developed:
  • Extended skills in critical analysis, academic writing, oral presentation and debating skills.
  • Guided and independent learning and research skills.
  • IT skills (word-processing of assignments, use of an online learning environment, use of online sources of information)

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

  • The module will be taught intensively in either Term 1 or in Term 2 on a short-fat basis.
  • A double weekly lecture will deliver information on historical context and key concepts.
  • A weekly seminar with smaller groups will allow for individual presentations and constructive debate.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 2 hours 20
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Preparation and reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation (in-class) 10 minutes 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1: Text / Object Analysis 2000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2: Research 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Student-led group discussions requiring independent reading, research and study.

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