Sugar and Slavery: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the British Caribbean

Tutor: Henrice Altink

Module type: Explorations

Module Code: HIS00028I

This course explores the rise and fall of plantation slavery in the British Caribbean. As most of the slaves in the region worked on sugar plantations, considerable attention will be paid to the development of sugar plantations: their physical lay-out; the changes that they underwent over time in terms of technology, output and profits; and their management structure. The main focus of the course is on slave life. Not just the slaves’ working lives will be explored but also their material culture, family life, gender relations, and resistance against the slave system. Slaves interacted not just with slaveholders but also with non-slaveholding whites and free blacks. By exploring the slaves’ interaction with these various groups, the course will illustrate that the slave plantation was not, as some scholars of New World slavery have argued, a ‘closed authority system’. And finally, the course will address old and recent historical debates about sugar and slavery, such as the impact of slavery on the black family and the role that the decline of the sugar industry played in the abolition of slavery. Throughout the module, emphasis will be placed on the development of key skills in historical analysis through the use of primary and secondary sources.

The seminar programme may deal with the following:

  • The Atlantic Slave Trade
  • The origins and development of slavery in the Caribbean
  • The demographics and economics of slavery
  • Slaves at work
  • The social structure of slave societies
  • Slave economy
  • Slave leisure and culture
  • Slave resistance
  • The abolition of slavery and the demise of the sugar industry

For the group project, students will decide upon one aspect of Caribbean slavery studied on this module and explain how they would present an analysis of it to an interest lay audience, for instance through a website, a TV or Radio programme, or a museum exhibition.


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.