History | Slavery & Unfreedom in World History
W300 | 11986 | Machado
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA’s only
This course will examine the development of forms of slavery
and ‘unfreedom’ in the human experience from a range of temporal and
spatial perspectives. It will do so with the aim of deepening our
understanding of the meaning and evolution of slavery in different
historical moments and contexts. The course will consider this
history through primary and secondary sources, including slave
narratives and fictional, legal, and philosophical evidence.
Understandings of slavery have, with few exceptions, focused on the
history of the Atlantic slave world and as a result have been
dominated by the ‘plantation complex’ model. Besides looking at the
development of plantation (and other) slavery in the Atlantic, this
course will explore the very different forms of slavery
and ‘unfreedoms’ that existed in the social, economic and cultural
systems of the Indian and Pacific Ocean worlds, and that predated
the Common Era. Its focus will revolve around a series of thematic
questions, which it will consider while exploring the material and
rhetorical history of slavery:
• How is slavery defined in different historical contexts?
• Is slavery always the worst fate for a human being?
• Is slavery an absolute or relative term?
• What is the role of race, religion, and culture in the
justification of slavery by slave owning societies?
• Do the concepts of 'freedom' and 'liberty' have universal
application? Why? Why not?
• How do capitalism, democracy, and slavery coexist, and are they
The course hopes ultimately to problematize and challenge the view
of slavery as constituted exclusively by the dichotomous categories