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History in Action

Posted on 12 August 2011

York teams up with Gilder Lehrman and Yale University to host seminar series on the history of the transatlantic slave trade

Middle Passages: A Shared History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade


28 schoolteachers from Ghana, the United States and the United Kingdom spent the week of 31 July to 6 August at an international summer school at York studying the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade as part of a programme of international understanding sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University and the University of York.

Led by historians Stephanie Smallwood, Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, James Walvin, Professor of History Emeritus at the University of York, and Dmitri van den Bersselaar, Professor of History at the University of Liverpool, the seminar covered the history of the transatlantic slave trade and the experience of the middle passage. Seminar topics included the history of African-European contact, the nature of African societies in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, slave trading practices in Africa, the impact of the slave trade on regions of Africa, the character of the coastal trade in the forts and castles, and the numbers and experience of African arrivals in the Americas.

During the week, teachers shared their experience of teaching about slavery, as well as following classes taught by specialists. They also visited Harewood House and the Merseyside Maritime Museum at Liverpool to study the surviving material culture.

The idea for the seminar originated in 2007 during a conference in Ghana commemorating the 200th anniversary of the closing of the transatlantic slave trades. Designed as a three year program and now in its final year, the Middle Passages Seminar was held at the Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana in 2009 and at Yale University in the United States in 2010.