Dramatising Slavery & Emancipating Students: Learning Beyond the Classroom (CILASS)

Inquiry-based learning, Interdisciplinarity, Linking teaching & Research, Post-colonial literature

Project leader

Alan Rice
Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Central Lancashire


The idea of the project is to enable students to learn about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its aftermath through researching historical characters who had a wide variety of roles in all aspects of the trade including perpetrators and victims, – maroons, fugitive slaves, domestic servants, sailors, slave–ship captains, plantation owners, African slave traders and rebel leaders. This information will be used to enable the development of a more effective dramatic tableau of slavery including hitherto undeveloped stand–alone, back–up resources which will be used as a learning tool for them and subsequent students.  The students will develop much of the resources themselves through field trips to museums and historical sites, meetings with local historians, archivists and curators and close co–operation with our University’s specialist librarian. Much of the research will be independent learning and the final development of the dramatic tableau will enable the conceptual, artistic and dramatic talents of the students to be foregrounded. The students will enable this dynamic pedagogical method to be developed and made web–accessible so that it can be used beyond UCLAN. The activities will enable the development of a stand–alone module of a live project kind for students across a range of literature and culture subjects.


This project develops from a crude dramatic tableau, developed from characters in my monograph Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic (Continuum 2003) which I have used to teach the slave trade over the last few years, but which needs additional input and research time to make it a resource that can exist outside of my head. Their development of it will give students the space to develop a range of research skills in the interdisciplinary study of the slave trade and its legacies. The project will be run as a Live Student Project (an elective route) with guided activities and field trips to facilitate students’ IBL.  These trips and talks from experts will enable students to think about the history of slavery, but also how the multiple stories of individuals in the trade are portrayed.  They will be encouraged to find characters they are interested in and would like to develop narratives around, in order to create a dynamic dramatic tableau as a teaching tool for themselves and for subsequent learners at UCLAN and beyond. Students will be encouraged to take part in the planning of the development of the resource.

Eventually, this 90 minute tableau based on around 20 characters will involve the development of A4 character cards with information on each personality and power–point presentations (or other visual/oral resources) to accompany the dramatic movements of each character. The characters will interact together on an improvised triangular stage to mirror the trade and their movements and interactions will be developed by the students based on their research. The students will develop a variety of characters; for those for whom character cards have been developed, they will develop resources to more effectively convey their life–stories whilst for others they will create both cards and resources.

They will learn, both how to sift through a wealth of resources and find the nuggets they need, and also how to tell a story when historical facts are sparse (for instance, through generic images that might be all we have).  They will learn to evaluate evidence from a wide variety of sources including primary historical sources at museums and archives. They will share the resources through the interactive ELGG programme which will enable them to create a learning community and when completed the resources and tableau will be featured on the developing Commemorating Abolition website for use by other HEI’s and for further education, local community and school use.

The students will be able to present their contributions to the tableau at an event at UCLAN as well as the CILASS dissemination event and I will write an account of the IBL methodologies for the CILASS website. In terms of curriculum development, I will develop a designated literature and cultures live student project module using this project as an experimental template that can be integrated into the provision of my School and be flexible enough to be used by other academics in cognate Humanities disciplines.

In July I will bring together the team of archivists, librarians, local historians & curators for a half–day meeting to discuss the framework of support we will provide for the students in their programme of learning.  At this point I will require the support of a fellow from the CILASS such as Duco Van Oostrum to help us frame the IBL elements of the project. The ELGG facilitator from our Learning Development Unit will need to train myself, the students and facilitators to make the interactive learning as useful as possible. Some of the resource will be used to support field trips to slave sites, archives and museums for activities led by local historians and other professionals. I anticipate at least 3 visits to Liverpool, Lancaster and either Manchester or London between October and December.