Slavery in West Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • An understanding of the concept of slavery in a sub-Saharan African historical context;
  • The ability to identify the theoretical framework of slavery and post-slavery studies in Africa and to confront these approaches critically with specific regional contexts and case studies;
  • Skills in analysing primary sources on African slavery;
  • The proficiency to present the results of student’s own research in an articulate way that stimulates group discussion and peer cooperation;
  • The ability to critically evaluate historical literature and employ it to prove analytical skills in written and oral form.
  • The ability to research and write an essay using appropriate scholarly language and critical tools.
  • The capability to draw upon knowledge and skills acquired during the course make it possible to answer examination essay questions.


  • Two hours of seminars each week for one term (10 weeks + a revision week in term 3)

Scope and syllabus

In this course, students will be introduced to discussions of theoretical definitions of slavery by using a comparative perspective: What is a slave? What is freedom? We will compare Western concepts of slavery and freedom with West African realities. We will also examine the concepts of exploitation, marginality, resistance and agency by analyzing case studies and original sources. In addition, students will be made aware of the highly gendered aspect of slavery: male and female slaves experienced slavery differently. We will highlight the changing nature of West African slavery in the 19th and 20th centuries and analyse the consequences of the Atlantic Slave trade, the colonial conquest and abolitionism. Finally, the course will examine the end of slavery and its legacy in post-abolitionist Africa.

  • Introduction: Slavery in Africa: Historical Debates.
  • African Slavery and the Slave Trade
  • Slavery and Resistance
  • Gender and Slavery
  • Islam and Slavery
  • Slavery, Colonialism and Abolition
  • Post-emancipation Societies
  • Slavery & Memory
  • Contemporary Forms of Slavery
  • Conclusion: Legacies of Slavery in Africa

Method of assessment

  • essay of 3,000 words worth 80% of the final mark,
  • reaction paper/book review of 1,000 words worth 20% of the final mark


Marie Rodet


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