Module Catalogue 2016/17

HIS2131 : American Slavery, American Freedom: Black and White America in the Age of Revolutions

  • Offered for Year: 2016/17
  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Susan-Mary Grant
  • Teaching Assistant: Dr Jen Kain
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The foundation of European colonies in North America marked the birth of a society that would eventually become the United State of America. Integral to this process was the simultaneous rise of Atlantic slavery and the forced transportation of millions of Africans to the Americas. At first slavery was simply an economic system, but as it developed it infected the political, social, and intellectual life of the newly independent nation, leading to the traumatic rupture of the Civil War in 1861.

This module explores the origins of the many race, class and gender issues that America still grapples with today by placing these in the broader context of the nation's colonial origins and the revolutionary upheavals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In particular it explores the contradictory concepts of slavery and freedom in a nation supposedly devoted to the principle of equality for all.

This module aims:
•       To introduce students to historical research and to guide them in the analysis of primary documents and texts.
•       To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and to develop the capacity for independent study.
•       To enable students to develop their own interpretation of the politics, society and culture of North America/the USA from the colonial era to the end of the Civil War.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus, intended as a guide only.

Colonial foundations
The rise of Atlantic slavery
Ideas of race and ethnic conflict
Colonial societies
The revolutionary Atlantic
Westward Expansion
The Cotton Kingdom
Abolitionists v. Proslavery
The Civil War

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students will gain knowledge of the political, social, and intellectual history of North America through the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.

They will explore concepts of geography, nation, and government: investigating the connections of North America to the wider Atlantic World.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Students successfully completing the module will have had the opportunity to develop the following key skills: written, electronic and interpersonal communication, planning and organisation, problem solving, bibliographic initiative, and computer literacy.

Development of associated skills in research, critical reading and reasoning, sustained argumentation and appropriate presentation of results.

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Literacy : Assessed
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Assessed
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
      • Use Of Computer Applications : Present
  • Self Management
    • Self Awareness And Reflection : Present
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Goal Setting And Action Planning : Assessed
      • Decision Making : Present
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Innovation And Creativity : Assessed
      • Initiative : Assessed
      • Independence : Present
      • Problem Solving : Assessed
      • Adaptability : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Collaboration : Present
      • Relationship Building : Present
      • Negotiation : Present

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00Drop-in/surgery
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire; raise questions for students to consider in private study, and stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills. These sessions will also at certain points during the module be used for group work, encouraging teamwork and self-directed work.

Seminars encourage independent and group study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1352A75Unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M252,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress. The exam tests acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly and concisely.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Co-ordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Co-ordinator will have the final say on such issues.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1,500 word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2016/17 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2017/18 entry will be published here in early-April 2017. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.