A 'New Form of Slavery'?: Indentured Labour in Post-Slavery Caribbean Societies, c. 1836-1917 HIST5167

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

Between 1836 and 1917, around half a million men, women and children from Africa, India, Europe, China, and North America were sent to the British Caribbean and indentured on plantations previously worked by enslaved Africans. Students will interrogate whether indentureship was a 'new form of slavery' by identifying the various indentured immigration schemes enacted throughout the region; examining their forced and voluntary journeys, their contractual obligations and living conditions; and assess their cultural impact within the region. Through a critical analysis of primary and secondary sources as well as film, students will also explore intersectional and global approaches to Caribbean history.


1x2 hr seminars per week over 10 weeks.  

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses





Essay (3,000 words): 60%

Oral presentation (10 minutes): 20%

Accompanying PowerPoint presentation: 10%

Seminar contribution (incl. chairing and responding): 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Engage with the historiographical debates concerning free and unfree labour in the post-slavery Caribbean;

■ Develop a critical understanding of the backgrounds, experiences and cultural practices of indentured labourers;

■ Analyse, synthesize, and evaluate primary documents and secondary materials;

■ Enhance oral presentation skills.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Assess the economic, social and cultural legacies of indentured labour in the British-held Caribbean;

■ Recognise the various ways bonded peoples sought freedom in the post-slavery Caribbean;

■ Examine how the Caribbean was invented through Orientalist and Africanist discourse;

■ Illustrate the significance of circum-Caribbean, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and global approaches to the study of the past;

■ Explain how gender, race, sexuality, nationality, and class hierarchies informed the Caribbean space;

■ Engage with the varied historiographical approaches and debates on indentured labour; critically analyse primary documents and relate to key readings.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.