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Slavery and Post Slavery: a Global perspective


Admission requirements



On the occasion of several anniversaries of the abolition of slavery in different places (Dutch slavery 2013, Dutch Slave Trade (200 years) 2014, Formal abolition in all of the US, (1865) 2015), this course takes what happens today in former slave societies (post-slavery societies) as a point of departure to explain the past in the present. Central is the question of how to compare similar institutions of human bondage and its effects on post-slavery societies from a global perspective.

By inviting a range of slavery experts from Leiden university and beyond, we wish to demonstrate how varied the experience of slavery has been in the past and how this plays out in very different memory practices and lived legacies today. The comparative approach allows us to make the point that slavery is a social, economic, political and cultural system that is common rather than exceptional in most worldsocieties. It is therefore not simply reducible to stereotypical images of trans-Atlantic slavery in the Early Modern period or Roman-Greek slavery in ancient times. The endeavor is to be original and cutting edge by comparing different places and times not only in terms of the institution of slavery itself, but also with attention for post-slavery and the diverse legacies of slavery in the present. Scholarly notions of identity, citizenship and processes of in- and exclusion will allow us to do so.
The course is coordinated by Lotte Pelckmans, and will be taught by several researchers, who will all give a guest lecture.
The classes are organized in accordance with the thematic organsiation of the handbook in three parts. These three parts are:
Part 1: Slavery as a Global Institution
Part 2: The Character of Slavery
Part 3: Changes and Continuities
All these parts allow for comparison across space (Africa to the America’s) and time.
The first day of the course will be an excursion to a Dutch city, where we will introduce the course and make a memories of “slavery” walk, visiting buildings and other public places reflecting the Dutch slave past. In the last part of the course we will visit and critically reflect on a museum exhibit related to the topic of slavery.

For students who started their studies in 2012 or before it is possible to do this course for 10 credits

Course objectives

The student has:

  • knowledge of the specialization Social History, more specifically ofthe differences of class, gender, ethnicity and religion; the transfer of people, goods and ideas; connections between people (individually and collectively), from 1600. Insights from this are used to explain current events and developments;

  • knowledge of the specialization History of European Expansion and Globalisation more specifically of the development of global networks which facilitate an ever growing circulation of people, and the central role of European expansion in this from around 1500;

Course specific objectives:

Drawing on different theories, ranging from globalization theories to anthropological analysis of the past, this course proposes to explore the presence and/ or absence of discrimination, trauma and inequality in contemporary post-slavery societies. Since the expertise of the speakers varies greatly, this course will provide an excellent opportunity for studying (post-)slavery from a comparative, transatlantic or even global perspective.

For the students, the course aims to

  • Deepen students’ general historical knowledge on slavery in both space and time

  • Introduce students to memory studies and the history of (post-)slavery

  • develop critical understanding of the concept of post-slavery through comparative analysis

  • develop students’ skills to conduct independent research and to summarize the literature

  • develop students’ communication skills more generally by generating discussions in class

The student can:

  • organise and use relatively large amounts of information

  • reflect critically on knowledge and understanding as presented in academic literature


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

5 EC =140 hours, consisting of:

  • Lectures: 2 hours x 12 weeks= 24 hours

  • Reading: 12× 9hours (=63 pages- 3 articles) =106 hours

  • Preparation 2 exams: = 8 hours

  • Excursion (1 day): 8 hours (optional for 5 EC, compulsory for 10 EC)

  • Exams (4 hours)

10 EC= 280 hours, consisting of:

  • Lectures: 2 hours x 12 weeks= 24 hours

  • Reading course articles: (=63 pages- 3 articles) =106 hours

  • Reading 2 extra books: 2×300 pages=86 hours

  • Written assignment (summary of the extra books)= 30 hours

  • Preparation 2 exams = 8 hours

  • Compulsory Excursion (1 day): 8 hours + 5 hours tripdescription website homepage UL= total 12hours

  • Exams (4 hours)
    Please note: this option is only open to History students who started in September 2012 or earlier. History students who started in September 2013 can only take this course for 5 ECTS. Students from other programmes are advised to check with their programme coordinator.

Assessment method

In order to access whether students organized and managed to critically analyse the amounts of literature and to test whether information obtained throughout the course has been critically integrated, the examination will consist of written exams with questions linking literature and broader discussions made during classes. The written exams will also ask students to compare and summarise. Assessment will be two written exams, one mid-term (40%) and one final (60%). The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Students can resit both exams at the same time.


During the course Blackboard will be used for:

  • Communication about assignments

  • Reading opportunities

  • Changes in the schedule

Reading list

  • Syllabus with links to online material

  • Gad Heuman, Trevor Burnard, The Routledge History of Slavery (2010) p.368. ISBN of paperback version: 978-0-415-52083-6


Via uSis


ms. Dr. L. Pelckmans


Only students who started in september 2012 or earlier can take this course vor 10 ECTS. They are expected to have read an extra book (which has been approved by the course organizer) before November. A summary of the chapters of this book will have to be handed in by the student at the latest on November 15th.

Students who take this course should have a sufficient command of the English language.