Global Histories of Justice, Freedom, Equality

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

What makes a person worthy or unworthy of freedom? Who is entitled to justice? What do we mean by equality? Although understood and dealt with differently in different times and contexts, these questions have constituted, as they still do today, the central concerns and dilemmas in all past societies. Starting with different formulations of “just society” across time and space, this module aims to explore different historical contexts in which these magic yet elusive concepts took on new meanings and significance. Organized thematically, weekly reading assignments and discussions will address such topics and issues as revolutions, emancipation, different forms of free and unfree labor, decolonization, and gendered aspects of rights and obligations.

  1. Course Introduction and Scope
  2. Ideas of a Just Society
  3. Revolutions/Expanding Liberties
  4. Slavery and “Messy” Abolition
  5. Free market, Unfree worl
  6. Liberalism and Empire
  7. Quest for an Equal World
  8. Gendered Claims
  9. Queering freedoms
  10. Closing remarks: “Where Do We Go from Here?”

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will:

  • Gain historical knowledge of the important events, issues, and global processes that have shaped our understanding of social justice
  • Show awareness of the historical context and development of our present-day issues
  • Gain familiarity with different topical and theoretical approaches to the study of the history of (in)justice, (un)freedom, and (in)equality
  • Develop advanced analytical and research skills
  • Be able to write critical, well-argued essays


  • 2 hours of teaching per week over 20 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • Essay, 1500 words (20%)
  • Research paper, 2500 words (80%)

Suggested reading

  • B. R. Ambedkar, “Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development,” Indian Antiquary, Vol. XLI (May, 1917).
  • Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford, Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800–1850 (Harvard University Press, 2016).
  • Fahad Ahmad Bishara, A Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780–1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
  • Edward E. Curtis, "“My Heart Is in Cairo”: Malcolm X, the Arab Cold War, and the Making of Islamic Liberation Ethics," The Journal of American History (December 2015).
  • W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (A. C. McClurg & Co, 1903).
  • Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2004).
  • Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Black Cat, 2021).
  • Thomas C. Holt, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991).
  • C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Penguin, 2001).
  • Andrew B. Liu, Tea War: A History of Capitalism in China and India (Yale University Press, 2020).
  • Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1907).
  • Jennifer Pitts, “Liberalism And Empire In A Nineteenth-Century Algerian Mirror,” Modern Intellectual History, Volume 6 Issue 2 (2009).
  • Jake Christopher Richards, “Anti-Slave-Trade Law, ‘Liberated Africans’ and the State in the South Atlantic World, C.1839–1852,” Past & Present, Volume 241, Issue 1 (November 2018).
  • Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Verso, 2018).
  • Andrew Sartori, Liberalism in Empire: An Alternative History (UC Press, 2014).
  • Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Beacon Press, 2015).


Samia Khatun


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