Teaching slavery in a global context: some pedagogical themes and problems

2016-04-15T14:55:37Z (GMT) by Catherine Armstrong
This chapter will discuss a new second year undergraduate optional module entitled ‘Slavery in a Global Context.’ This module is open to History and Joint Honours History students and uses lectures and seminars to explore a chronological history of global slavery. The module covers many of the themes of the conference including the connection between slavery and race, class and gender, the significance of the legal framework and the connection between particular economic and social systems and the prevalence of slavery. The term ‘slavery’ itself is discussed, and taken broadly: we examine serfdom and feudal bonded labour, and also consider contemporary coerced labour such as sex trafficking, domestic slavery, child marriage and child soldiers. We begin in the Ancient World, progressing to slaveries in China and India, the Indian Ocean world, and medieval and early modern Europe. The transatlantic trade and slavery in the Americas also feature, before a discussion of modern slavery-like practices such as convict labour. Finally, we devote several weeks at the end of the module to discussing modern day slavery. This chapter explores the pedagogical justification behind the syllabus and teaching and assessment methods, as well as reflecting on this module’s place in the curriculum. I acknowledge the challenges faced when teaching this module in contrast to the more ‘traditional’ approach to transatlantic slavery that I have adopted previously in other modules. I reflect on the success of my aim to challenge students’ preconceptions of slavery as an Atlantic phenomenon. This module also uses a non-typical assessment strategy, requiring students to devise a museum exhibition on a topic of their choosing related to the global history of slavery. Finally I reflect on the ways that the module will be adapted for subsequent years in response to the participation and feedback of students in this first cohort.