Slavery and Plantation Societies in Latin America

The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
08 May 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA T711 Latin American Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA T721 Latin American Studies (Including Placement Year),
BA T731 Latin American Studies,
BA T7N3 Latin American Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA T7N2 Latin American Studies with Business Management,
BA T7N4 Latin American studies with Business Management (Including Foundation Year),
BA T7M8 Latin American studies with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA T7M9 Latin American Studies with Human Rights,
BA L994 Global Studies with Latin American Studies,
BA L995 Global Studies with Latin American Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA L996 Global Studies with Latin American Studies (including Placement Year),
BA L997 Global Studies with Latin American Studies (including Year Abroad),
BA L990 Global Studies and Latin American Studies,
BA L991 Global Studies and Latin American Studies (Including Foundation Year),
BA L992 Global Studies and Latin American Studies (including Placement Year),
BA L993 Global Studies and Latin American Studies (including Year Abroad)

Module description

This module will focus on the different plantation societies that were established in Brazil, British Jamaica, the French Caribbean (mainly 'Saint-Domingue', that is, present-day Haiti) and the Spanish colony of Cuba.

The module will examine how local conditions (environment and geopolitics) and external factors (such as the demands on the world market, religion, law and customs of the colonial power, and the African cultural backgrounds of the enslaved) combined to shape the characteristics of every slave society.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce a range of historiographical and conceptual approaches to the study of Latin American and Caribbean Slavery, ca. 1500-1888.

  • To promote a deep understanding of significance of slavery to Latin American and global history.

  • To encourage wider understanding of and facilitate engagement with the various types of primary sources relating to this topic.

  • To develop research and writing skills.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be expected to be able to

  1. Understand the significance and importance of slavery in the colonial Atlantic world.

  2. Make use of a comparative historical approach, for example to explain the different forms slavery took in the various plantation colonies in the Caribbean and Brazil.

  3. Interpret primary sources that relate to one major strand of European colonialism in the Americas.

  4. Use their knowledge of history to asses to what extent slavery shaped contemporary Latin American societies.

Module information

The great majority of the 13 million enslaved Africans deported to the Americas during the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries ended up working on plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean. Sugar, cacao, indigo, tobacco, cotton and coffee were the main commodities slaves produced for the rapidly expanding European markets. But slavery did not only provide crucial inputs for developing capitalism, it also entered cultural representations of the other. Enlightened writers reflected about its legitimacy or the fundamental differences between what was increasingly perceived as 'races'. Hence slavery in the Americas contributed in many ways to the making of the modern world.

Introductory lectures on each colony will be followed by comparative sessions dealing with slave-holding elites and social structure more generally, slave women and the slave family, as well as the religion and culture of the enslaved. In the last sessions we will look at runaways, plots, and rebellions and other means whereby the enslaved sought to obtain freedom. The work in class will mainly deal with documents written by travellers, priests, and government officials and, more exceptionally, by overseers and the enslaved themselves. The discussion of these primary sources will allow us to gain new insights into the everyday reality of slavery.

Introductory Reading

  • Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery (2010).

  • Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex (1998).

  • Eltis and Engermann, The Cambridge World History of Slavery, vol. 3 (2011).

  • Klein and Luna, Slavery in Brazil (2010).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • One 1-hour seminar per week.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Primary Source Analysis (1000 words)    40% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    60% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Matthias Rohrig Assuncao, email:
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

Dr Ingeborg Dornan
Brunel University London
Reader in History
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


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

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