Comparative Slavery

Prof. Patrick Rael, Bowdoin College, Spring 2002


Meets: TTh2:30-4:00 (Searles 313)
Office: 19 Hubbard
Hours: M1-2, Th1-2, by apt.

This intermediate seminar examines slavery as a labor system and its relationship to the following: the emergence of market economies, definitions of race attendant to European commercial expansion, the cultures of Africans in the diaspora, slave control and resistance, free black people and the social structure of New World slave societies, and emancipation and its aftermath. We shall spend considerable time considering how historians have understood these crucial issues.

COURSE WEBSITE: The website for this course includes a copy of this syllabus. It also lists all the reading and paper assignments. You may easily refer to the website for the most recent course assignments and requirements. The website URL is: .




10% In-class participation (attendance and discussion)
60% Three analytical papers (3 @ 20% each = 60%
30% One final exam

Attendance and participation (20%): Your thoughtful participation in both lecture and discussion is a significant part of your course work. Please make sure that you have read the assigned readings before each class and are prepared to discuss them. My lectures are never only lectures; you must contribute! No absences are "excused" -- you are responsible for all material covered during missed class days. Those who may miss class to attend extra-curricular events are requested to inform me, as a courtesy, of planned absences. If special considerations (such as an illness) prevent you from fulfilling course obligations, please provide me with documentation so we may consider alternative assignments.

Analytical papers (60%): These will challenge you to not simply understand course readings, but to do so in light of previous readings. Papers should be 5-8 pages long, and based on the course reading for the day you elect to hand in your paper. They should assess the arguments of that day in light of course themes developed to that ponit. Papers must be comprehensive; that is, they must incorporate an understanding of previous course readings.

Final exam (30%): You will have the choice of two assignments: either a 8-10 page research paper on a topic developed in consultation with me, or an extensive analysis of the film "Burn" in light of course readings and discussions.


Late or Missed Assignments: Unless stated otherwise, assignments are due at the beginning of class; assignments handed in later in the day (during or after class) will be considered one day late. I will accept late assignments with no penalty only for documented health or other emergencies. In general, assignments which receive letter grades will be marked down one-third of a grade (e.g., from B+ to B), for each day late. A final but crucial point: All work must be completed in order to pass this course.

Paper Re-writes: I encourage you to re-write your papers with an extremely generous re-write policy. You may re-write any assignment. If you re-write a paper, your grade for the assignment may or may not go up, but it will not go down. A re-write is a significant re-working of the paper which responds to my critiques of the original paper regarding organization, argument, and evidence. It is not sufficient to, for instance, simply correct grammatical mistakes or errors in punctuation. I will accept re-writes for any paper up to the last regular class meeting, but not after. Re-written papers will receive the same late penalty (if any) applied to the original paper. You must submit any originals with your re-write. Grading re-writes must be my lowest grading priority; please give me plenty of time.

A Note on Computer Use:

1. Computer crises: Computers are a great boon to the student writer. But, as with any technology, you must take steps to minimize the problems computers inevitably cause. Do not expect to get through the semester without having at least one terrible computer crisis. Prepare for this well in advance. Back up your work constantly (using multiple disks), and have alternative plans for obtaining computer use if your primary options fails you. I am not very amenable to excuses for late or missed assignments due to computer crashes. I would also like you to keep backup copies of submitted assignments -- either in electronic form or hard copy -- for the duration of the semester.

2. The Internet: The temptation is great to use this ultra-convenient resource. The quality of the materials on it, however, is highly inconsistent, and often suspect. While we will work with the Internet, our first task will be to build the analytical skills necessary for using it properly. As a general rule of thumb, then, please do not use the Internet for this course except in conjunction with course assignments which direct you to do so, or in consultation with me.

A note on academic honesty: Each author owns his or her own ideas, words, and research. You must give appropriate credit -- generally in the form of quotations and proper footnotes -- when using the work of another scholar. I expect you to be familiar both with Bowdoin's honor code, and with the guidelines for proper citation and attribution of sources provided for this course. If you have any questions, ask rather than take risks. Plagiarism, whether intentional or not, is a serious violation of academic standards and Bowdoin's honor code. I will enforce violations of the honor code by bringing immediate, uncontested action before the Judicial Board. Minimum penalties for plagiarism will be to fail the course. A special place in the underworld is reserved for those who think their college professor is technologically impaired: it is as simple to find the source of plagiarized Internet material as it is to copy and paste it.


Keys for reading sources:

(Jstor) Denotes that the article may be found using the Jstor on-line service. The simplest way to access these materials is to access the course syllabus and click on "Jstor" when it appears after the assigned reading.

(R) Denotes that the library has a paper copy of this in its reserve collection.