The Loi Taubira, Ten Years On: "Giving the slave trade and slavery the prominent place they deserve" in the French Curriculum

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 8:50 AM
Room 205 (Hynes Convention Center)
Kate Hodgson , Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom
In May 2001, the French Parliament voted unanimously to declare the transatlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades and the enslavement of African, Indian, Madagascan and Amerindian peoples a crime against humanity. Article two of the ensuing Loi Taubira states that slavery and the slave trade should be given a prominent place in the national curriculum.

I intend to examine the implementation of this law since 2001, asking educators in metropolitan France and the overseas Départements how their teaching has changed to create space for students to learn about slavery and the slave trade. I will also give a broad overview of educational materials for both students and teachers produced since 2001 in response to the Loi Taubira, looking particularly at how new research on slavery and the slave trade is impacting on French curriculum development and course materials.

In 2005, a report produced by the Committee for the Memory of Slavery described the place of slavery in the French curriculum as still unjustifiably “minor”. My paper will therefore look particularly at curriculum development and classroom experience over the last five years, in order to ascertain how far recommendations have been put into practice. Teaching in French collèges  (students aged 11-15) was highlighted by the report as particularly ineffective with regard to the implementation of the law, and I will give particular attention to the place of slavery and the slave trade in the 2008 collège syllabus for History, Geography and Civic Education.

The experience of teachers in delivering a coherent programme on the history of the slave trade and slavery targeted to the diverse needs of their students will be central to my paper, which will draw on interviews with teachers who have tried to “give the slave trade and slavery the prominent place they deserve” in the curriculum.