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HISTORY 2CS3 Caribbean Slavery Atlantic (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: Online

Instructor: Dr. Juanita DeBarros


Office: Chester New Hall 602

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24149


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

  • gain an understanding of the key events and themes in the history of slavery in the context of the Atlantic world
  • develop critical reading skills, particularly in the area of evaluating historical arguments and interpretations
  • develop historical research skills
  • enhance verbal communication skills through regular discussions
  • develop digital literacy skills

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Lisa A. Lindsay, Captives as Commodities: The Transatlantic Slave Trade. New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2008.


Method of Assessment:

Tutorial Participation                                                           20%

Writing Assignments (2)                                                    20% (10% each)

Digital Research Assignments (2)                                              15% (7.5% each)

Research Essay                                                                  20%

Final Examination*                                                              25%   


* The final exam will be held on campus. Students who cannot attend the exam on campus must contact the instructor in advance.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Submission and Late Policies

Late assignments will be penalized by 3% each day, including weekends.  Please submit all written assignments (even if they’re late) to the Avenue to Learn dropbox by 7pm on the due date.  The one exception are the tutorial reading analyses (see below).  These should be submitted in tutorial.  I will not accept any emailed or faxed assignments; assignments should not be slid under my office door.  If you submit your assignments in the History department drop box, you do so at your own risk.

All papers submitted to the A to L dropbox will be automatically screened by anti-plagiarism software.


I will consider extensions for assignments if you let me know in advance of the due date and if you support your request with acceptable documentation.  For minor illnesses (fewer than 5 days in length), you should submit the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)  If you plan to submit an MSAF, please email me no later than the date the essay is due and please submit the MSAF within 2 days of the assignment due date.  If the MSAF is not appropriate for your circumstances, you should document the absence with your faculty office.  You will not be able to use an MSAF to submit a late tutorial writing assignment.


Please note that I will not waive late penalties due to the demands of course work or extra-curricular activities. 

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Schedule of Readings and Lectures:

Week 1 (week of Sept 4): Introduction

Lecture 1. Introduction to course.

Lecture 2. Introduction to research skills in history.  The following links will show you how to find articles and books, how to read secondary sources and how to interpret primary sources.

Weekly tasks:

1. Academic help:

The University Student Success Centre offers academic workshops and writing assistance.

2. Finding and using secondary sources:

Click on the link and watch the videos listed below. You can also read the transcripts. These introduce you to the research skills you’ll need for this course; the videos will also introduce you to the research resources that the university offers and that you’ll need to complete the course assignments.  Don’t be discouraged by the long list, though.  The videos are all short!  One last note: I haven’t included every instructional video. If you see others that seem relevant, please view them.


Finding Library Materials:

How to Sign Up for RACER (interlibrary loan)

How to Request an Item from RACER

How to Recall an Item

Google vs Google Scholar vs Library Databases

How to Find & Choose a Database

How to Find a Journal Article

How to Find An Article from a Citation

How to Search Google Scholar

How to Search JSTOR

How to Search Project Muse

Scholarly Books

Research Skills:

How to Choose Keywords

Reading Scholarly Articles

Scholarly vs Popular Sources

Reading Scholarly Articles

3. Interpreting primary sources. These links will introduce you to the different kinds of primary sources that historians use and the challenges that they present. Although they don’t focus on the history of slavery, they identify important issues that you’ll encounter when you read primary sources in our course.

  • Anne Rubenstein, “Newspapers,” in World History Sources

  • David Trask, “Official Documents,” in World History Sources

  • Beverly Mack, “Personal Accounts,” in World History Sources




Week 2 (Week of Sept 10): First Contacts

*Tutorials start this week*

Lecture 3. On the Eve of 1492.

Lecture 4. Early African and European Encounters in the “Old World”

Weekly tasks: 1. Read Lindsey, “Preface” and “Introduction”

2. Read Alvise da Cadamosto (in coursepack)

3. Read “Conceptualizing the Atlantic World,” in The Atlantic World, edited by Douglas R. Egerton, Alison Games, Jane G. Landers, Kris Lane, Donald R. Wright, 9-38. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 2007 (in coursepack)

Tutorial discussion:

There are 3 readings this week—one primary source and two secondary sources.  What are primary and secondary sources?  How do they differ from each other?  How do historians use them? 

Primary sources:  What questions do/should historians ask of primary sources?  Who wrote the primary source you’re required to read this week?  When was it written and why?  What does this account tell us about the encounter between Europeans and Africans?  Does this account only tell us about European perspectives of the encounter or can we learn something about what it meant to Africans?

Secondary sources:  What do these historians tell us about slavery and the Atlantic world?


Week 3: Iberia in the Americas

Lecture 5. Early Spanish Voyages to the Caribbean

Lecture 6. Slavery in Portuguese and Spanish America

Weekly tasks:

1. Watch “History vs. Christopher Columbus.”

For tutorial, be prepared to identify the main points of this video, the effectiveness of the format, and possible biases of the creators.

2. Read the following documents and articles about Las Casas:

Please note that you may have to paste the link into your browser.

  • “Travel Narratives,” including “questions to ask of travel narratives.”

Tutorial discussion:

For tutorial, try to answer all the questions on the World History site about Las Casas’ account.  Identify the arguments by Clayton and Crosby and try to identify evidence in Las Casas’ account that supports or contradicts their arguments.


Week 4 (Week of Sept. 17): Europeans in the Caribbean

Lecture 7. The Caribbean Experiment

Lecture 8. The End of Spanish Dominance

Short essay # 1 is due on Sept 17, before 7pm. Please submit the essay on Avenue to Learn.

Weekly tasks:

1. Read Marcus Rediker, “‘Under the Banner of King Death’: The Social World of Anglo-American Pirates, 1716-1726,” William & Mary Quarterly 38, no. 2 (1981): 203-227.

2. Analyzing images: read the following:

  • “Material Culture – Images,” including “questions to ask.”

Search The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record for an image from the section titled “Pre-Colonial Africa: Society, Polity, Culture.” Be prepared to discuss it in tutorial using the criteria in the above two links.

Tutorial discussion:

1. What is Rediker’s argument and what evidence does he use to support his points?

2. Discuss the image that you found on The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life site.


Week 5 (Week of Sept 24): Tied Labour and Slavery

Lecture 9. Tied Labour in the Atlantic World

Lecture 10. Sugar and Slavery in the Caribbean

Weekly tasks:

1. Watch this BBC video. What do it tell us about the relationship between sugar and slavery?

2. Read Richard Ligon, “Servants, Slaves, and Masters in Barbados” and the introduction to this section (in coursepack). Consider discussion questions 1 and 2 for tutorial.

3. Read Hilary Beckles, “Plantation Production and White ‘Proto-Slavery’: White Indentured Servants and the Colonisation of the English West Indies, 1624-1645.” The Americas 41, no. 3 (January 1985): 21–45.

Tutorial discussion:

1. Think about Beckles’s argument and his use of Ligon’s account.  In particular, try to answer the following: What is “proto-slavery” and indentureship?  What is the relationship between indentureship and slavery?  What role did indentureship play in the agricultural development of Barbados?  Does the case of Barbados tell us anything about developments in the wider Atlantic world?  What is Beckles’ argument?  What primary and secondary sources did he use?  How did he make use of Ligon?  Can you find any information in Ligon’s account that Beckles could have used to advance his argument?      

2. Compare these written sources with the BBC video, in terms of approach, argument, and conclusions.

Before starting the lectures in section 2, please complete exit quiz 1.




Short Essay #2 is due on Oct. 1, by 7pm. Please submit the essay on Avenue to Learn

Week 6 (Week of Oct. 1): Slavery and the Atlantic World

Lecture 11. The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Lecture 12. The Impact of Slavery on Africa and Europe

Weekly tasks:

1. Read Woodruff D. Smith, “Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23, no. 2 (Autumn, 1992): 259-278.

2. Read the following from the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database:

  • “History of the Project” (read all sections of the essay)
  • David Eltis, “A Brief Overview of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” (read all the sections of the essay)

3. Look at the maps and read the brief descriptions:

  • “Introductory Maps” (click on “Introductory Maps”)

4. The Transatlantic Slave Trade: In Motion

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: In Motion is a website that presents a variety of perspectives on slavery from the testimony of those who experienced it firsthand.

Feel free to explore this website on your own, but I’d like you focus on the perspective of captured and enslaved Africans that may be found in the lyrics of a song heard on Gorée Island, Senegal, in the eighteenth century.

Tutorial discussion:

Using the written and the visual sources, summarize the nature and the extent of the transatlantic slave trade. What economic forces drove the slave trade? What impact did slavery and plantation agriculture have on Africa and Europe?  How significant were sugar and other tropical commodities in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century European life? Finally, compare the different video, audio, and digital sources we used this. How effective were they and why?


Week of Oct. 8 No Class Mid-term Recess


Week 7 (Week of Oct. 15): The Economics of Slavery

Lecture 13. Slave Labour in the Americas

Lecture 14. Slavery and Economic Development in Spanish America


Digital Assignment # 1 is due on October 15 before 7pm. Please submit on Avenue to Learn.

Weekly tasks:

1. Read Lindsay, chapters 1 and 2.

2. Read John Thornton, chapter 6 from Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. (in coursepack)

3. Click on the link for Legacies of British Slave Ownership.

  • Read “Project Overview,” including information about the “database,” the “context,” “estate search guidance notes” and browse the links.  
  • Browse the “estates” and find one Caribbean estate. Note the key details about the estate and report your findings in tutorial.

4. Watch Britain’s Legacy of Slavery.

Tutorial discussion:

1. What economic and ideological factors underpinned the system of slavery?  Compare the arguments by Thornton, Lindsay, and Catherine Hall (in the video).

2. Read the primary source excerpts that Lindsay included at the end of chapters 1 and 2 and answer the questions.

3. Discuss your findings from your search of Legacies of British Slave Ownership.


Week 8 (Week of Oct. 22): Slave Life I

Lecture 15. Life and Death in the Caribbean

Lecture 16. Slave Culture

Weekly tasks:

1. Read the following:

  • Stephanie Smallwood, chapter 7, “Life and Death in the Diaspora,” Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007) (in coursepack)
  • Philip Morgan, “Slave Cultures: Systems of Domination and Forms of Resistance” (chapter 16)  in The Caribbean: A History of the Region and Its Peoples, edited by Stephen Palmie and Francisco Scarano. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (in coursepack)
  • Lindsay, chapter 3.

2. Click on the following links:

  • Read/listen to the information about the musical forms that enslaved Africans brought to the Americas.
  • Use the following websites to explore Montepelier Estate, Jamaica:


Legacies of Slavery

Tutorial discussion:

Use these written, visual, and archaeological sites to identify patterns in the lived experiences of enslaved people in the Caribbean.  Consider the nature of the sources.  What factors should you consider when evaluating them and how effective are they in telling us about the experiences of enslaved people?


Week 9 (Week of Oct. 29): Slave Life II

Lecture 17. Gender and Family Life in Slave Societies

Lecture 18. Freedom and Slavery


Digital Assignment # 2 is due on October 29 before 7pm. Please submit on Avenue to Learn.

Weekly tasks:

1. Read Pedro Welch, "The Slave Family in the Urban Context: Views from Bridgetown, Barbados, 1780-1816," Journal of Caribbean History 29, no. 1 (1995): 11-24. (in coursepack)

2. Read about Mary Prince.

 (you may have to paste this website in your browser)

And read about one of the Canadian “team members”:

Tutorial discussion:

What do these sources tell us about gender and family life during the period of slavery? How typical were Mary Prince’s experiences? Consider the concept of Prince as the member of a “writing team.” What does this tell us about the creation of historical sources? And what sources can be used to uncover “hidden” histories, such as Mary Prince’s?

Before starting the lectures in section 3, please complete exit quiz 2.




Week 10 (Week of Nov. 5): Slave Rebels

Lecture 19. Slave Resistance

Lecture 20. The Haitian Revolution

Weekly tasks:

1. Read John Thorton, "African Soldiers in the Haitian Revolution," Journal of Caribbean History 25 (1993): 58-80 (in coursepack)

2. Slave rebellions in Jamaica

  • Read about the creation of the map.

  • Click “play” to follow the progression of the rebellion and read the primary sources that discuss these events.

Tutorial discussion:

1. According to Thornton, what role did enslaved Africans play in the St. Domingue revolution?  Can the revolution in St. Domingue be seen as an “African” revolution?

2. According to Professor Brown, what contribution can digital resources make to our understanding of the history of slavery and slave rebellions? Compare the map and the written sources. What do they tell us about this rebellion and slave resistance more generally?


Week 11 (Week of Nov. 12): The End of Slavery I

Lecture 21. Freedom and Independence in Latin America

Lecture 22. Emancipation in the British Caribbean

Weekly tasks:

1. Read Stanley Engerman, “Emancipations in Comparative Perspective: A Long and Wide View,” in ed. Gert Oostindie, Fifty Years After: Antislavery, Capitalism, and Modernity in the Dutch Orbit (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996) (in coursepack)

2. Identify one of the individuals on this site and read about him/her. Summarize this person’s historical importance in abolitionist movement.

The Unsung Heroes of Abolition

3. Read Lindsay, chapter 4.

4. Click on the link and read about the “tools” used by abolitionists. Be prepared to discuss in tutorial.

The Tools of the Abolitionists

Tutorial discussion:

Discuss your findings about one of the “Unsung Heroes of Abolition” and the “tools” of abolitionists.


Week 12 (Week of Nov. 19): The End of Slavery II

Lecture 23. The End of Slavery in North America: Canada.

Lecture 24. The End of Slavery in the Hispanic Caribbean

Weekly tasks:

1. Read the following:

  • Afua Cooper, "Acts of Resistance: Black Men and Women Engage Slavery in Upper Canada, 1793-1803,” Ontario History 99, no. 1 (2007): 5-17.

  • Rebecca J. Scott, “Gradual Abolition and the Dynamics of Slave Emancipation in Cuba, 1868-86,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 63, no. 3 (Aug., 1983): 449-477.
  • Oscar Grandio Moraguez, “Dobo: A Liberated African in Nineteenth-Century Havana”

2. Click on these links to explore the following websites that address slavery in Canada and its abolition.

From the names on the list, read the accounts of 3 Black North Americans and be prepared to discuss their contribution to the end of slavery.

From the list of themes on the right-hand side of the home page, read the text describing the different historical developments.  Choose one document from one of the topics and read through it.  Be prepared to summarize your findings in tutorial.

Tutorial discussion:

1. Summarize the arguments and main points in the two secondary sources.

2. Using all sources listed above, discuss the roles that enslaved people played in their own emancipation.  What patterns can you identify?

3. Consider the nature of these digital sources.  How effective is this format?   

4. What did you learn from the readings and other sources for this week about slavery in Canada that was new to you?

Before watching lectures 25 and 26, please complete exit quiz 3.


Week 13 (Week of Nov. 26): The End of Slavery III

Lecture 25. War and Freedom in the United States.

Lecture 26. Reparations for Slavery

The Research Essay is due on November 26 before 7pm. Please submit on Avenue to Learn.

Weekly tasks:

1. Read/watch the following on the end of slavery in the United States:

2. Read the following on the reparations’ movement:

  • Lindsay, “Epilogue”
  • Martha Biondi, "The Rise of the Reparations Movement," Radical History Review no. 87 (Fall 2003): 5-18. (Search for Radical History Review under e-journals on the McMaster University library website)
  • Verene A. Shepherd, "Reparation for Slavery," Jamaica Journal 31, no. 1/2 (June 2008): 24-30. (in coursepack)
  • Nova Scotia Museum, “Remembering Black Loyalists, Black Communities in Nova Scotia.”

Click on the link and read the story of the Nova Scotia Black Loyalists. Read the different sections, but pay particular attention to “Recovering the History.”  What does this section tell us about the importance of remembering and researching the history of slavery?

Tutorial discussion:

  1. Discuss the factors leading to the end of slavery in the United States and compare with those in other parts of the Americas. What was the role of Canada in enslaved people’s responses to slavery in the United States?
  2. How does Peter Kolchin assess the PBS series “Africans in America”?
  3. What are “reparations”? What is the case for reparations?  Can the digital and visual sources that memorialize slavery be seen as a form of “reparation”?
  4. Assess the different kinds of sources used in this section of the course.  How effective are they?