Major Seminar

Spring 2014

HIST 4501 (3)

Major Seminar

"The Age of Emancipation in the Atlantic World"

Mary Hicks

This seminar will introduce participants to the major methodological perspectives in the study of emancipation in the Atlantic world by examining the economic, political, ideological, social and cultural contexts which caused and were remade by emancipation. In addition, students are asked to consider emancipation as a global historical process unconstrained by the boundaries of the modern nation-state. Students will consider the reasons for and consequences of emancipation from a trans-national perspective. For instance, how did slave rebellions and eventual emancipation in French Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) reverberate in Colonial Virginia and Brazil? How did the Spanish colonial practice of slave manumission called coratacion influence British abolitionists as they decided to implement an apprenticeship system for former slaves in Jamaica that severely limited their autonomy? What role did coerced plantation labor in Cuba and West Africa play in the emerging international capitalist economy? How did “free states” such as Britain and the United States—still reliant on commodities produced from forced labor in other parts of the world—use the moral capital of the ideology of “free labor” to impose colonial power on those societies which still relied on slaves to comprise the bulk of its laboring population? By focusing on the ideological ambiguities and lived experiences of enslaved people, political actors, abolitionists, religious leaders, employers and many others, this seminar will question what constitutes equality? Citizenship? Or labor exploitation?  All in order to uncover how historical and geographical contexts informed the over one hundred year long process we call emancipation.

Students will be required to read approximately 200 pages of source material every week, in addition to several shorter in class readings. Participants will be asked to purchase 3 books. Writing assignments for the class include a rough and final draft of a 25 page research paper, as well as three shorter papers discussing primary source materials that students will gather themselves using guides provided by the class. 

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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Charlottesville, VA 22904

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