Colonialism and Slavery in World History


About this course

Calls for ‘decolonization’ have grown louder and more pervasive in recent years. Demands for the recognition of past involvement in historical slavery have equally gained traction. Such calls reverberate across a wide range of domains, including international relations, science, the arts, and popular culture. There is no doubt that colonialism and slavery have profoundly shaped the world we live in today. But how well do we know this contested past? And what are the key debates among historians of colonialism and slavery? This course surveys colonialism and slavery in a world historical perspective, focusing on the past five centuries. Major themes include: the relationship between colonialism, empire-building and state formation; the historical origins of slavery; the slave trades in east and west; coerced labor and migration; colonialism and global economic inequality; colonialism and the environment; the connections between slavery, colonialism and racism; and decolonization conflicts. We will also pay attention to the colonial past of Wageningen University and discuss how the long-term legacies of colonialism and slavery remain visible in the 21st century.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • Identify the most important ways in which colonialism and slavery have shaped societies and their relations over the past five centuries
  • Distinguish and compare different scholarly perspectives on key topics in the history of colonialism and slavery
  • Appraise the differentiated history and legacies of colonialism and slavery
  • Apply historical methods to evaluate a chosen aspect of the history of colonialism and slavery in the form of an individual essay

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    10 March 2025

    • Ends
      2 May 2025
    • Term *
      Period 5
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 9 Feb 2025
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University