Resistance and Rebellion in the World of Atlantic Slavery

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
10 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Where there was slavery, there was resistance. In most cases, the resistance was covert, but instances of open rebellion were surprisingly common, especially considering the steep odds against gaining one's liberty. This module will examine the phenomenon of slave resistance in the Atlantic World from ca. 1522 (the first recorded rebellion by enslaved Africans in the Americas) to 1888, when slavery was finally abolished in Brazil.

We will begin by examining the ways historians have defined such terms as 'resistance,' 'rebellion,' and 'revolution.' We will then examine some of the more important exemplars, not only in the Americas, but in Africa itself, and even aboard slave ships. Throughout, we will pose two basic questions.

First, we will ask what the various episodes reveal about the conditions that produced rebellion. Second, we will ask what rebellions can tell us about slavery in general, whether they constituted--as several historians argue--'moments of truth'.

Module aims

1. To introduce a range of theoretical, historiographical and conceptual approaches to the study of slave resistance and slave rebellion, ca. 1522-1888
2. To promote a deep understanding of the place of slave resistance in Atlantic and global history
3. To encourage wider understanding of the primary sources relating to this topic.
4. To develop analytical and writing skills.

Module learning outcomes

On completing the module, students will:

1. Have an awareness of key debates concerning resistance and rebellion as applied to the history of slavery.
2. Be able to analyse the historiographical debate concerning a key issue in the literature on slave resistance and rebellion.
3. Have analysed suitable primary source material in a coherent and well-developed manner.

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

P. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History, 2nd edition (1998).

D. Eltis and S. Engerman, eds. Cambridge World History of Slavery, vol. 3 (2011).

Klein and Vinson, African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2nd edition (2007).

P. Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, 2nd edition (2003).

P. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd edition (2000).

Paquette and Smith, The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas (2010).

J. Rodriguez, Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion (2007).

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Document analysis (1000 words)    40% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    55% 
Practical   Seminar participation    5% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Sean Kelley, email:
Dr Sean Kelley
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Simon Rofe
University of London
Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies
Available via Moodle
Of 30 hours, 27 (90%) hours available to students:
3 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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