The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST4600SM Topic Studies in Comparative History: Slavery and Freedom in World History

Semester 2 (2023-2024)

Lecture TimeWednesday, 10:30 - 12:15

VenueRoom 208, Lee Shau Kee Building(LSK 208)


Lecturer Stuart MCMANUS (

Teaching Assistant WANG Shu (

Course Description

This course focuses on the history of ideas of ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery’ in a global context from antiquity to the present day. Moving broadly from antiquity to the present day, it looks at the emergence of the major intellectual traditions on the subject in Greece and Rome, ancient China, the Islamic and Middle Eastern world, medieval Europe, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. It culminates by focusing on the twentieth and twenty-first century, addressing the conflict between individualist and collectivist ideologies such as capitalism, fascism, and communism and thinking about human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The course will not only educate students in the history of freedom and slavery, but will help them understand important policy issues facing Hong Kong and China in the future.


1.(Jan 10) Introduction

Reading: Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty pp. 3-10 only [negative & positive liberty]; 

“The Unspeakable Truth” 


2.(Jan 17) Ancient Greece

Pericles, Funeral Oration at

Aristotle, Politics 1.2-7, 12-13.

Manumission Inscriptions of Female Slaves at Delphi:


3. (Jan 24) Roman Republic

Livy, Bk 1.preface & 17, Bk 2 1-15

Sources on Roman slavery


4. (Jan 31) Roman Empire & Christianity

Tacitus, Annals opening*.html

St Augustine, De civitate Dei, XIX, 1, 14-18


5. (Feb 7) Christian Middle Ages

Jean Froissart, Chronicle, 2.73-78 (pp. 652-668) [pdf]

J.H. Robinson (trans.), Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history (Philadelphia, 1897), 3.5 (‘English Manorial Documents’) [pdf]

Medieval Sourcebook, documents on ‘The Slave Trade’ and ‘The Church and Slavery’ 


6.(Feb 14) Holiday – Happy Lunar New Year!  


7. (Feb 21) Middle East & Islam

Sahih al-Bukhari 49 (on the manumission of slaves)

Richard Hakluyt, ‘The Worthy Enterprise of John Fox, in Delivering 266 Christians out of the Hands of the Turks,’ in Daniel J. Vitkus (ed.), Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England (New York, 2001), 55-70 [pdf]


8. (Feb 28) Slavery & Liberty in Early Modern East Asia China

Slave deed from Tang China 

Nelson, Thomas. “Slavery in Medieval Japan.” Monumenta nipponica 59.4 (2004): 463–492. Print. [online via library catalogue]

“Slavery in Ming China,” in Palgrave Handbook of Global Slavery Throughout History. Springer International Publishing, 2023. ;


9. (Mar 6) No Class – Reading Week!


10. (Mar 13) Renaissance Republicanism and Imperialism

Reading: Leonardo Bruni, Laudatio Florentinae Urbis 

Machiavelli, Discourses (extracts)


11. (Mar 20) The Transatlantic Slave Trade

John Bardot on Slavery 

Equiano on the Middle Passage 

Look at: 


12. (Mar 27) The Enlightenment, Liberalism & Abolitionism

Mill, On Liberty (Chs 1-2) 

Douglass, What to A Slave is the Fourth of July? 


13. (Apr 3) Slavery’s Long Shadow

Plessy v Ferguson (1896) [pdf]

Ney dos Santos Oliveira, ‘Favelas and Ghettos: Race and Class in Rio de Janeiro and New York City,’ Latin American Perspectives (1996) 23.4: 71-89 [pdf]

Mui-Tsai in Hong Kong: Report of the Committee Appointed by His Excellency the Governor Sir William Peel, K.C.M.G., K.B.E. [pdf]


14. (Apr 10) Individualism vs. Collectivism in the 20th Century

Lenin, Our Programme (1899)

Lenin, State and Revolution (1918) 

1936 Constitution of the USSR, Ch 1 

Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, part 1.2 “Creative Powers of a Free Civilization.”

Milton Friedmann, “The Relationship between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom” 


15. (Apr 17) Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking

Global Slavery Index 2018 Executive Summary

Brian O’Keefe, ‘Bitter Sweets,’ Fortune (March 2016)

Tobias Jones and Ayo Awokoya, ‘Are Your Tinned Tomatoes Picked by Slave Labour?’ The Guardian (June 2019) 


Assessment & Assignments

20% 4*1-page response papers (5% each)

For 4 of the 13 weeks of readings, please produce a 1-page argument-driven mini essay (no more than 400 words), answering the question: “What is the most important take-away from the reading, and why?”  Send to Professor by email before Friday 5pm after the related lecture. Veriguide Receipts must also be submitted but these can be sent at the end of the term. The grade will be taken on the first 4 response papers submitted, although you are welcome to submit more.  


20% Participation in Tutorial

Active and enthusiastic participation in the tutorial on the basis of the reading (5% per tutorial). 


20% attendance and participation in lecture

  • Each student is requiredto attend the weekly lecture and the tutorials, as well as participate in class exercises, etc. (5%). 
  • Students must also ask at least two questionsover the course of the semester (you must announce your name before you ask the question) with half the grade given for asking the questions (5%), then the other half given for the quality/relevance of the questions (5%) (=10%). 
  • Students must also attend at least 3 World History Seminars via Zoom (send screen shot to TA as proof). Schedule will be announced in due course (5%).  


40% Final Essay

  • (35%) Write an argument-focusedresearch essay on the topic of slavery and freedom in one particular place and time in history (2500 words minimum, 3000 words maximum, plus references; MLA style). Due: April 26 at 5pm.  
  • (5%) 1-page proposal for essay emailed to Professor by March 29 at 5pm.


N.B. This is a no-ChatGPT class!  Use of LLMs is not permitted for any assignment.  

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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