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Slavery, Memory and Memorialisation (AM417)

Module Leader

Phone: 02476 523408 (internal extension 23408)
Office: Room H3.33, third floor of the Humanities Building

Office hours: Monday, 12-1 and Thursday, 11.30-12.30 (during term) or by appointment (see here)

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Aims and objectives

This final-year Advanced Option module will examine the place of memory and memorialisation in relation to slavery and its aftermath in the Atlantic world. The commemorative events surrounding the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade in 2007, along with the demands made for Western governments and other institutions – including universities – to apologise for past involvement in slavery and to pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved people, have shown the continuing significance of the memory of slavery. However, this module will not only explore the construction of public memory about slavery (as well as forms of forgetting) as a twentieth and twenty-first century phenomenon, but consider how memory and memorialisation and have operated in the past. Throughout, individual and collective memories are examined through their expression in texts, sites and performances. Across the module, memory is considered as a means through which identities are understood and expressed, and as a contested realm of social and political struggle. The primary focus of the module is on the Caribbean, and how slavery in and slave-trading to the region are remembered in Europe, but it will also consider USA, Brazil and West Africa. The module uses historical work on memory and also attends to debates in related fields, such as sociology, cultural geography and the interdisciplinary field of ‘memory studies’.

In the light of the History curriculum review, this module will have a new assessment structure for 2019-20. At its heart will be an 'applied' history assignment consisting of a museum-style display panel on a topic relating to slavery, abolition, resistance and their legacies. The panel will include images and around 1000 words of text (titles, image captions and other content). It will be accompanied by an essay of around 2000 words explaining how and why the panel was designed. The maximum total for both pieces is 3000 words. This display panel will be the work of each individual (i.e. not group work) on a topic chosen by the student. The support for this task will include visits to real museums, an opportunity to present draft displays and guidance from the seminar tutor. This applied task will give you the chance to present historical knowledge and arguments to a non-academic audience. Whether or not you are interested in slavery in the Atlantic world and its legacies, it will be highly applicable to those considering work in the heritage or museum sectors, or where you will have to convey knowledge to non-specialist audiences (e.g. teaching, journalism and media).

Module outline

The module starts with the 2007 commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade before reviewing the histories of Atlantic slavery and key concepts that can be used to study memory. It then examines some of the historical ways in which memory and slavery have been intertwined, before turning to contemporary manifestations, including film and the ‘neo-slave narrative’ literary genre. Early in term 2, we will focus on the commemoration of Atlantic slavery, its consequences, ending and legacies in museums, which will include a fieldtrip. The module ends by considering some recent issues such as ‘slavery tourism’ and demands that have been made for apologies and reparations.

For more details, please see the module timetable.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • demonstrate enhanced study, writing and communication skills, in both written work and group discussion
  • exhibit an enhanced capacity for independent study skills, clear/concise expression and critical analysis
  • show understanding of key themes and case studies relating to the memorialisation of slavery in Europe, Africa and the Americas
  • show some capacity to engage with conceptual debates relevant to the study of (social and cultural) memory
  • critically assess past and present efforts to memorialise slavery, including through comparative approaches
  • demonstrate the application of theories and approaches to memory and slavery through the applied task of designing a museum display panel


There is no single textbook for this module. Please see the general reading list.

Preparing for the module

A major focus of this module is going to be the 2007 bicentenary of the British Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. For a sense of what was at stake and some of the attendant controversies, start with the following newspaper article:

Lola Young, 'The truth in chains', The Guardian, 15 March 2007.

Why not also go and see an exhibition on Britain's involvement in the slave trade, slavery and abolition, such as...

We'll be visiting two of these on fieldtrips during the module (to London).

Teaching and learning

This module consists of 17 two-hour seminars, a long essay session and a fieldtrip to London. The seminars take place as follows, depending which group you have been assigned to:

  • Mondays, 10-12 in Room B2.03 (Science Concourse, 2nd floor)
  • Thursday, 1-3 in Room H3.03 (Humanities Building, 3rd floor)

For a week-by-week breakdown, see the module timetable.

Seminars consist largely of class discussion based on the assigned reading. There are no lectures. You will be expected to complete all the assigned seminar reading and other work.


The assessment for this module is new for 2019-20. There is no exam and there are no non-assessed essays. This is the ‘Final Year Advanced Option 1 (Applied)’ assessment model, which consists of four elements:

  1. 1500-word short essay (10%)
  2. Oral participation (10%) - this mark will be based on your presentation of your draft display panel in Term 2, week 5, including answering follow-up questions, as well as asking questions of other students in the same session.
  3. 3000-word 'applied' history assignment, consisting of a display panel and accompanying explanatory essay (40%)
  4. 3000-word long essay (40%)

For deadlines, see those for ‘Final Year Advanced Option 1 (Applied)’ here.

Please note that the assessment remains unchanged even if you link your dissertation to this module.

You will be expected to play a central role in finding your own topics and sources, and coming up with titles, perhaps based on seminar questions, so start planning your assessed work early. (See also the following list here.) Remember that the content of your different pieces of assessed written work must not overlap in any significant way.

Edward Colston falls2020 fieldtripBrookesAm I Not a Woman and a Sister?Emancipation statueSlave fort, Ghana


Glasgow University reparations