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Understanding transatlantic slavery, key stage 3

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 3
  • Subjects: Citizenship, History, Personal, social, health and economic education
  • Session type: Museum led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: International Slavery Museum
  • Free


This object handling session introduces students to Liverpool’s involvement in transatlantic slavery. It looks at fundamental aspects of transatlantic slavery and its impact on the lives of those involved.

Further details

school children looking at objects from the museum's handling collection

Transatlantic slavery was responsible for the forced migration of between 12 to 15 million people from Africa to the Americas from the middle of the 15th century to the end of the 19th century. This session introduces students to Liverpool’s involvement in the trade, to fundamental aspects of transatlantic slavery, and its impact on the lives of those involved.

Our workshop uses our extensive handling collection and our staff have specialist training, allowing them to interact with students about a difficult subject in a sensitive and thought provoking manner. 

Students work in five small groups to look at different facets of transatlantic slavery: traditional life in West Africa, forced migration, enslavement and life on the plantation, resistance of the enslaved people and abolition. Each group uses different sets of artefacts to aid and deepen their understanding of this complex and difficult history. 

The museum educator guides the discussion through strategic questioning that encourages the students to focus, observe, and interpret the objects for themselves.  During the session the students’ confidence in handling objects, their visual literacy and critical thinking skills are developed.

'Understanding transatlantic slavery' also enables students to develop presentation skills as groups present their findings and students listen and learn from each other.

This unique learning experience illustrates the massive impact of transatlantic slavery on the world and the ways it still impacts on many lives.  The approaches used in this session enable students to develop a deeper understanding of Fundamental British Values.

Curriculum links

Key stage 3 – History

  • Know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world.
  • Understand historical concepts such as continuity and change
  • Understand the methods of historical enquiry

Key stage 3 – English

  • Write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
  •   Use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
  • Are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.

Key stage 3 – Citizenship

  • Develop a sound knowledge and understanding of the role of law and the justice system in our society and how laws are shaped and enforced
  • Pupils are equipped with the skills to think critically and debate political questions.

Fundamental British Values

  •  Democracy. Understand the evolution of a society characterised by equality of rights.
  •  Individual Liberty. Explore essential knowledge and skills in order to broaden life choices and learn to voice opinions in a constructive and collaborative manner.
  •  Rule of Law. Learn the importance of accountability and safety. Understand the evolution of the equality of laws and rights which underpin British society.
  • Tolerance. Learn to recognise the multi-cultural, multi-faith nature of the United Kingdom, and to challenge prejudice.
  • Mutual Respect. Learn to embrace diversity in all its forms and contribute to an inclusive community. Actively challenge prejudice and bullying behaviour.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

Pupils will:

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of the lives of enslaved people before and during transatlantic slavery.
  • Gain knowledge and understanding of the campaign to end slavery.
  • Gain knowledge of the inequality of transatlantic slavery.


Pupils will:

  • Develop observation skills by working with the museums handling objects.
  • Improve their speaking and listening skills in a group discussion context.
  • Learn to give reasoned answers backed up by evidence. 


Pupils will be introduced to:

  • The use of handling objects in a museum context.
  • The role of a museum such as the International Slavery Museum.
  • Key terms an appropriate language to use in relation to transatlantic slavery.


Pupils will:

  • Increase confidence in identifying and challenging racial stereotypes.
  • Understand how transatlantic slavery still impacts on today’s society.
  • See the International Slavery Museum as an informative and creative place to visit.