Teaching Slavery in Scotland Project

These resources were developed as part of the ESRC-funded ‘Teaching Slavery in Scotland Project’ over the academic year 2022-2023. The project team of university historians, an education academic, a school teacher and a specialist in antiracism worked with 21 practising teachers who participated in a residential weekend at The Burn near Montrose, exploring recent scholarly developments in the history of Atlantic slavery and enslavement, along with pedagogical approaches to anti-racist teaching of complex and sensitive topics. The weekend was guided by seven ‘big ideas’: 

  •  African societies were complex and diverse, and thus responded in complex and diverse ways to European demand for captives.  
  • Enslaved people’s resistance to and strategies for surviving enslavement were complex and diverse. 
  • Primary sources and case studies allow us to challenge stereotypes of the Atlantic slave system. 
  • Non-written sources, and reading sources against the grain, are crucial in uncovering marginalised perspectives. 
  • Atlantic slavery strongly influenced economies, societies, cultural and racial formations in Europe, including Scotland. 
  • Societies dominated by slavery were integrated into the development of the modern world and demonstrate many characteristics we think of as ‘modern’. 
  • The cultural, ideological and economic inheritances of the Atlantic slavery system have strongly affected the word we live in today. 

The resources were developed in the months following the residential by the participant teachers, who worked in small groups in consultation with the project team. Sixteen of the teachers were able to contribute resources. The lesson sequences follow the enquiry approach to lesson planning in which pupils work alongside teachers to use primary sources to answer a legitimate historical question. The following enquiries are available: 

  • What did resistance to slavery look like? 
  • How similar were the lives of enslaved men and enslaved women on Jamaican plantations?  
  • How similar were West African nations between 1770 and 1807? 
  • How can we learn from personal accounts of the Middle Passage? 
  • What was the most significant link between Scotland and the Caribbean? 
  • What kinds of relationships did African nations have with Europeans in the Middle Ages? 
  • How similar were enslaved people’s rebellions and revolutions in the Caribbean? 

Anyone is welcome to download the materials here and adapt them for their own classroom use. They are designed to inspire as well as to be used ‘off the shelf’. Please credit the Teaching Slavery in Scotland project if you use them. Please also let us know how you are using them by emailing hca-tss@ed.ac.uk. 

Project organising team Participant Teacher-Authors 
Prof Diana Paton, historian, University of Edinburgh 
Dr Christine Whyte, historian, University of Glasgow 
Dr Peggy Brunache, historian, University of Glasgow 
Lisa Williams, anti-racist educator, Edinburgh Caribbean Association 
Katie Hunter, schoolteacher 
Dr Joe Smith, education researcher, University of Stirling 
Dr Jelmer Vos, historian, University of Glasgow 
Dr Marisa Wilson, geographer, University of Edinburgh 
Dr Shantel George, historian, University of Glasgow Linsey McMillan, PhD student in History, University of Edinburgh Alison Clark, PhD student in History, University of Edinburgh  
Amy Thomson, Mearns Castle High School 
Andrew Brown, Craigie High School 
Angel Hinkley, Drumchapel High School 
Caitlin McIntosh, former Head of Humanities, Golspie High School 
Colleen Hohs, James Gillespie High School 
Debbie Tait, Portree High School 
Fionnuala Glover, Holy Rood RC High School Fraser Gray, Culloden Academy 
Jemma McKay, Broughton High School 
Jenna McMenemy, Strathavan Academy Jesanna Gooch, Leith Academy 
Laura Dow, Kinross High School Maria Treacy, Broughton High School Melanie Balfour, St Augustine’s RC High School 
Samantha Sweeney, Drumchapel High School Stephanie Morrison, Porthleven Academy 

Teaching Slavery Resources

Please note that the lessons shared here are in PDF format; for editable versions in Powerpoint format please go to the SATH Team and adapt for your own use in your classroom.

What kinds of relationships did African nations have with Europeans in the Middle Ages?

These resources will give learners a greater understanding of African-European relationships before the development of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

How similar were West African Nations between 1770 and 1807?

This series of lessons allows learners to compare two African societies – the Kingdom of Nri (an Igbo state), and Asante. Learners will understand the culture, beliefs and politics of these societies. An extension lesson explores the history of another state, Dahomey. In addition to slides, there are printable maps.

What was the most significant link between Scotland and the Caribbean?

This series of lessons explores Scotland’s relationship to the Caribbean, focusing on the period of Atlantic slavery. Learners will explore connections through sugar, finance, linen and herring fishing. Lessons 1a and 1b introduces the series and focuses on sugar. Lesson 2 is about financial institutions. Lesson 3 examines the linen industry and lesson 4 attends to fishing. There is also a series of printable resources to support these lessons.

How can we learn from personal accounts of the Middle Passage?

These two lessons explore the Middle Passage, focusing on the different types sources through which historians can learn about it.

How similar were the lives of enslaved men and enslaved women on Jamaican plantations?

These lessons examine life and work on Jamaican plantations using the examples of two sugar estates. Learners investigate women’s and men’s experiences, their similarities and differences.

How similar were enslaved people’s rebellions and revolutions in the Caribbean?

These lessons introduce learners to three different rebellions and revolutions in the Caribbean during the era of slavery, in St John’s, in Haiti (St Domingue) and in Jamaica, through an exercise using a board, dice and cards.

What did resistance to slavery look like?

These lessons encourage learners to consider enslaved people’s resistance to slavery, both overt and covert. Lesson 1 introduces the key terms and activities of resistance. Lesson 2 focuses particularly on maroons and self-emancipation. Lesson 3 focuses on everyday resistance. As well as three sets of slides there are multiple printable resources. Resources 1 and 2 go with lesson 1. Resources 3, 4a and 4b go with lesson 2. Resources 5a, 5b and 6 go with lesson 3.

Note: we recommend using the original Powerpoint files (available on the SATH Teams site) rather than the pdfs, as the pdfs contain animations which do not work well in pdf.