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Groundings (1): Studying Slavery Transnationally from Above and Below

[class PPT week 3]

This week we'll explore some of the ways in which historians have approached the comparative or transnational study of slavery in the Americas. Please read BOTH core pieces because they're both key to the concepts/ ideas we'll use in the course.


  • According to Alejandro de la Fuente, what were the main comparative arguments made by Tannenbaum about slavery in the Americas?
  • Why did Tannenbaum regard “Iberian” slavery as different?
  • How have scholars refuted Tannenbaum's claims over the years?
  • How, in de la Fuente’s view, might some of Tannenbaum’s arguments remain relevant for the history of slavery in Cuba?
  • What do you think of his arguments?
  • What was the "second slavery," according to Tomich? Is it useful or limiting? Why?

Core readings:

De la Fuente, Alejandro. “Slave Law and Claims-making in Cuba: The Tannenbaum Debate Revisited.” Law and History Review, 22:2 (Summer 2004): 339-67.

Tomich, Dale W. “The Second Slavery: Bonded Labour and the Transformation of the Nineteenth-Century Economy,” in Rethinking the Nineteenth Century, ed. Francisco Ramírez (Stanford, 1988), 103-17.

Further reading:

Responses to de la Fuente (and his reply) by historians of Cuba in Law& History Review 22:2