Confronting the Past in British Business
In recent years British business has been compelled to confront its past in relation to slavery and racism. The Black Lives Matter movement led to reconsideration of leading figures in British history. Most famously the statue of Edward Colston (1636-1721) in Bristol was toppled in June 2020. Colston was a philanthropist in Bristol but part of his wealth came from his role in the Royal African Company, which transported more Africans into slavery than any other British company in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Cass Business School, part of City University in London, changed its name to Bayes Business School, after it was realized that Sir John Cass (1661-1718) was also a key figure in the Royal African Company. This module will look at the historical involvement of British business in slavery and colonialism. It will consider how the legacies of slavery and racism affect modern business in the UK and international relations, focusing on particular episodes such as Colston’s statue. The module will consider classic texts on slavery and racism in relation to contemporary debates, focusing specifically on the implications for business not just society in general. It will then look at a series of recent events and examine debates in the press and social media, again specifically focusing on how business could or should play a part in confronting the past. It is expected that students will be prepared to examine social media where much of the most vociferous debate takes place. The module is open to students across the university.
Full module specification
|Module title:||Confronting the Past in British Business|
|Duration of module:||
Duration (weeks) - term 2: |
The aim is to provide students with an appreciation of historical context for contemporary debates around diversity and corporate social responsibility. The module will provide final year students with the confidence to discuss diversity within a historical understanding of the sensitivities surrounding such issues. The aim is for students to be able to conduct independent research to assess the claims made in the press and social media. Students should be able to assess the relevance of diversity and history for business.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. Discuss the historical context of business in the past and present in relation to issues such as slavery, colonialism, and racism
- 2. Explain the strategies pursued by businesses in relation to issues such as slavery, colonialism, and racism
- 3. Evaluate how businesses have met the political, ethical, and cultural challenges concerning issues such as slavery, colonialism, and racism at different historical times
- 4. Assess historical and contemporary sources from conflicting perspectives
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 5. Collect evidence on businesses from multiple sources including online and social media
- 6. Construct an original research project on particular event or business either in the past or responding to events from the past
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 7. Present evidence from multiple sources including online and social media
- 8. Produce a research report using primary sources in an appropriate academic style
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Scheduled learning and teaching activity||11||Weekly lecture|
|Scheduled learning and teaching activities||8||Weekly seminar|
|Guided Independent Study||131||Reading, research, essay, group work|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Group presentation from 4 students during seminar||15-20 mins||4,5,7||Feedback sheet to group after seminar|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Essay||40||2000 words excluding references||1,2,8||Written feedback|
|Research project||60||2500 words excluding references||3,4,5,6,7,8||Written feedback|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Essay||Essay (2000 words, 40%)||1,2,8||Ref/def period|
|Research project||Research project (2500 words, 60%)||3,4,5,6,7,8||Ref/def period|
The module will consider classic texts such as Williams Capitalism and Slavery in relation to contemporary debates. This will be followed by a discussion of sources for researching business in the past and present, in particular the UCL Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery and the Financial Times Historical Archive, as well as social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The module will then consider particular events such as the toppling of Colston’s statue in 2020, the changing name of Bayes Business School.
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Akala. (2019) Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. Two Roads.
Williams, E. (1944) Capitalism and Slavery. Due to be released as a Penguin Modern Classic 2022
Hall, C. (2014) Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain. Cambridge University Press.
Module has an active ELE page?
Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources
UCL Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery
Financial Times Historical Archive
Last revision date