Black Atlantic

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This module aims to encourage students to rethink conventional ‘British’ history and the role of Britain in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Rooted in this inquiry is Paul Gilroy’s concept of the ‘black Atlantic’, which drew inspiration from the natural currents of the Atlantic ocean as a means by which to understand the hybrid cultures which formed when mass populations of black Africans were forcibly removed from their homelands and transported across oceans. Understanding the black Atlantic as ‘continent in negative’ allows students to engage in cultural studies in ways which break free from cultural nationalisms and ethnic absolutisms which continue to shape present day racialized subjectivities.

As Gilroy used events/people and ideas as a window into the cultural complexity of historic and contemporary black culture, this module is a similarly transhistorical, loosely chronological retelling of the legacies of the slave trade through seminal events, people, and ideas.

Key themes and questions which will be asked throughout include:

  • How can the concept of the Black Atlantic help us to make sense of varying modalities of black culture - historic and contemporary?
  • When (if ever) did Black Africans in Britain become Black British?

These questions will allow students to reckon with the ways in which the largest forced migration in human history not only destroyed, uprooted, silenced and subjugated, but also created, nurtured and delivered the tools which would be used to resist practices of Western hegemony.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • To understand the main ideas and arguments behind Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness
  • To apply theoretical approaches to the analysis of historic and contemporary events
  • Situate the black atlantic within the broader context of debates within cultural studies about nationalism/ethnicity and race


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 1 hour lecture per week
  • 1 hour seminar per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: 30%

Assignment 2: 70%

Suggested reading

  • Paul Gilroy , ‘The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness’, (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1993)
  • Tinsley, Omise’eke Natasha , ‘Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage
  • Stuart Hall, Jessica Evans, Sean Nixon (ed.), Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (Sage, 1997)
  • Peter Fryer , Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (Pluto Press, 1984)
  • James Walvin , ‘Black and White: The Negro and English Society’, 1555-1945, London, 1973


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules