HIS 392 • Race in the First British Empire
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
This class examines the development of notions of race in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic. We will begin with a brief survey of racial thought in western history up to the Age of Revolution (using Ivan Hannaford's Race: The History of an Idea in the West as the central text though it will be supplanted by other works), and then spend two weeks reading in related primary texts written by eighteenth century social thinkers, novelists, playwrights and/or historians. From that base, we will move to examine different groups in England's first empire and the processes of racialization they experienced as well as the processes of race formation that members of those groups engaged in. We will explore these processes by focusing first on the view of the world and of human variety from the metropole, and then by moving to the peripheries to look at Native Americans, at Africans in Africa and America, and at Indians in Britain's Indian possessions. The format will be as follows: we will meet as a group every second week to discuss assigned reading. During scheduled class time during the weeks that we do not meet as a group, I will meet individually with each student in the seminar, in order to help her/him define a paper topic, and then to discuss progress on the paper over the course of the semester. Sometime around the tenth week of the semester, we will meet as a group during one of the weeks normally reserved for individual meetings, and students will present their projects to the seminar. Papers will be due on the final meeting of class, and, again, students will be asked to present what they have found to the class.
Evaluation of students will be based on their active participation in class discussions, on class presentations, and, of course, on the final paper. For the papers, the students will be asked to read and synthesize the historiography of something related to race and the First British Empire.