HIS 350L • RISE ANGLO-AMER ANTISLAVERY-W
In 1765, African Slavery and the Atlantic Slave Trade were two of the main pillars of the entire British-Atlantic World. Slavery and the traffic in human cargoes were considered vital parts of the empire's wealth and were seldom subjected to any sustained criticism. One hundred years later, however, this situation had been utterly transformed. In the aftermath of the American Revolution, slavery was abolished or gradual emancipation begun in all of the new United States north of the Maryland. In 1807, the international slave trade was outlawed on both sides of the Anglo-phone Atlantic. In 1834-38, half a million slaves living in the British Caribbean were declared free. Finally, although it came in the midst of a bloody civil war, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation sounded the death knell for slavery in the southern United States. After 1865, there was not a single slave remaining in the English-speaking world. The sudden downfall of slavery is a remarkable example of "human progress." An institution and practice that for centuries was accepted as a normal, necessary, and even, natural part of life, within a few generations came to be seen as immoral, obstructionist, and finally unendurable.
This course will examine the rise and eventual triumph of Anti-Slavery sentiment and actions in Britain and the United States between 1765 and 1865. We will read and discuss how historians have interpreted (and explained) this phenomenon, as well as read the writings of abolitionists themselves to form our own ideas as to their character and motives. Students will be given six short (5-6 page) writing assignments based on their analysis of secondary and primary literature as well as their critical (and historical) reviews of recent novels and films that treat the subject of slavery and/or Abolitionism: Sacred Hunger and The Known World, Amistad and Amazing Grace. Students will have the option (and in at least one instance, the requirement) of revising their work after it has been critiqued and graded. Final grades will be based entirely on these assignments as well as participation in class discussions. Besides the novels and films listed above, students can expect to read the equivalent of six books and several hundred additional pages of primary documents (abolitionist newspapers, pamphlets, and ex-slave narratives).