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AM407 - Slavery and Slave Life in the American South, 1619-1865

  • Module code: AM407
  • Module name: Slavery and Slave Life in the American South, 1619-1865
  • Department: Comparative American Studies
  • Credit: 30

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

This module examines the institution of slavery in the southern United States. It allows students to study racism and slavery in America, from the early colonial period through to the mature plantation society which existed before the Civil War. Through the study of contemporary documents, students will explore the interaction between race, class and gender in a slave society and gain an appreciation of the experiences of the slave population held in bondage. They will be enabled through the use of written evidence and quantitative data to understand why Americans turned to slavery, why some elements of the white population supported slavery and why others did not. Students will also learn the different social, cultural, religious and economic techniques used by African-Americans to survive the institution of slavery. This module is a special subject for final-year students taking degrees in Comparative American Studies and History. It builds on core modules given in the first year, and complements second-year modules offered on colonial and nineteenth century North American history, as well as modules on early Latin American and Caribbean history.

Principal learning outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes: a) the further development of essay-writing and seminar participation skills; b) an understanding of how the critical analysis of sources contributes to historical debate, and a capacity to undertake such analysis; c) to provide the opportunity, through writing an 8000 word essay to develop the capacities needed to carry through a project of independent research. This will involve digesting existing historical knowledge, formulating research questions, locating relevant material, handling significant quantities of information, and writing up research findings in a form similar to that employed by articles prepared for academic journals. This exercise not only provides invaluable preparation for students intending to proceed to postgraduate work, it also fosters skills highly relevant to the future careers of most History students; d) a capacity to handle a variety of cultural evidence (music, fiction, art) as well as more conventional historical sources.

Timetabled teaching activities

The module will be taught through seminar discussion of a set weekly topic, focusing mainly on the selected primary sources. In addition students will receive individual tutorial feedback on non-assessed essays, and most will complete an 8000-word long essay based on independent, but carefully supervised, research in primary sources such as slave narratives, ex-slave interviews, travel accounts and plantation documents. As third-year students are expected to organise their learning more independently than hitherto, there are no lectures in the module.

Departmental link

Other essential notes

This module is a 30 CAT Special Subject, which with the addition of a 30 CAT Dissertation can account for half of your final year work. Special Subjects involve the intensive study of a tightly focused set of topics or problems using a large quantity of primary sources. It is, above all, through the Special Subject that you will acquire hands-on experience of the skills involved in working with primary sources.

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
30 CATS (Module code: AM407-30)
B (Examination only) Examination - Main Summer Exam Period (weeks 4-9) 100%
Assessed Course Work 50%
Examination - Main Summer Exam Period (weeks 4-9) 50%
Assessed Course Work 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core


  • Undergraduate Comparative American Studies (Q405) - Year 4
  • BA in History and Culture (VR20) - Year 3
  • BA in History and Culture (VR21) - Year 3
  • BA in History and Culture (VR22) - Year 3
  • BA in History and Culture (VR23) - Year 3
  • BA in History and Culture (with Year Abroad) (VR24) - Year 4
  • BA in History and Culture (with Year Abroad) (VR25) - Year 4
  • BA in History and Culture (with Year Abroad) (VR26) - Year 4
  • BA in History and Culture (with Year Abroad) (VR27) - Year 4