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Race and the Making of the Modern World

“The silencing of the Haitian Revolution is only a chapter within a narrative of global domination’ – Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past.

The Haitian Revolution (1804) is one of the most important world-historical events, but it is likely that you have never heard of it even though it occured around the same time as the French (1789) and US (1776) revolutions. Why this silence? Perhaps because it was the first revolution undertaken by enslaved Africans asserting their rights for liberty, equality, and political self-organisation against their European colonisers?

‘Race and the Making of the Modern World’ focuses on aspects of history that are missing from the more usual descriptions of our past. This involves some tough questions about global processes of dispossession, genocide, enslavement, appropriation, and extraction of primary resources. We ask why such processes have been left out of usual descriptions of the modern world, and also consider how the world remains structured by them in the present. The module examines how the memories of some people include these events, while for others they are forgotten and insignificant. We also go on to consider what difference would be made to our understanding of the modern world if we were to acknowledge these histories as significant.

This module might particularly appeal if you are interested in understanding how the modern world came to be; interested in how race intersects with the emergence of the modern world; what implications this has for sociology and the social sciences.

Current most popular topic areas in the module
Dispossession – students are interested to learn about the broader context for the emergence of the United States, a context that involves the dispossession of the original inhabitants and the theft of land and resources.
Famine – students are interested to learn about the similarities between policies and processes that meant that the actions undertaken by imperial authorities in Britain, intensified the famines in the colonial outposts of Ireland and India.


Module Director:

Katy Harsant