Programme of Public Lectures at the Wilberforce Institute, Spring 2023

As Spring Term beckons, Dr Judith Spicksley, co-ordinator of the public lecture programme for the Wilberforce Institute, lays out the exciting and varied schedule of talks that are on offer this year.

Thank you to everyone who attended our lectures in the autumn term, in person or online. As the new year begins, I write to draw your attention to the public lectures we have on offer this spring. All will take place at the Wilberforce Institute, Oriel Chambers, at 27 High Street, Hull, HU1 1NE, unless otherwise stated. Join us for refreshments from 4.15pm and stay afterwards for a glass of wine and a chance to talk with our speaker. If you can’t make it in person, you can join us online. Specific links for each of the talks are listed below. For more details of how to stream lectures, or directions to the Institute, please contact Sophie Blanchard at Sophie.Blanchard@hull.ac.uk The full programme of lectures is also available on the ‘Event Programme’ tab.

Our first talk is on Wednesday 25 January 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT. As it’s a joint venture with the Cultures of Incarceration Centre, it will not be in the Institute, but on campus, in the Wilberforce Building, WILB-LT12. You can also sign up to stream here.

Our speaker is Professor Steven Sarson of Université Jean Moulin in Lyon, who will talk on ‘A “Cruel War against Human Nature”: Conditional Proslavery in the US Declaration of Independence’. His interests are wide-ranging, from the history of the British Atlantic, to Great Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the history of America, and Barack Obama.

Professor Sarson began his teaching career as a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, and has since held posts at John Hopkins University and Towson State University in Maryland, and Swansea University in Wales. He is now Professor of American Civilisation in the Department of English at Jean Moulin University, and it is in this capacity that he comes to talk. His abstract is as follows.

It is commonly believed that the Declaration of Independence promised a future of equality and liberty for ‘all men’, and consequently that the continued existence of slavery contradicted the founding principles of the United States. This paper, however, based on a larger project on history and historical consciousness in the Declaration, argues that some of the document’s logic was consistent with the continuation of slavery. If the ‘ends’ of government were the protection of the life, liberty, property, and ‘Safety and Happiness’ of its subjects, then it was necessary to suppress internal and external enemies. According to Grotius, Locke, and others, that allowed for the enslavement of prisoners of war. And according to the Declaration’s own American history, it allowed for the enslavement of Africans and African Americans. The Declaration’s ‘one people’ had been forged out of the common ‘circumstances of our emigration and settlement here’ that only applied to European Americans. By contrast, Africans and African Americans were a once ‘distant people’ who were ‘obtruded’ on America via the ‘warfare of the … king of Great Britain’ who then ‘excited’ them into ‘domestic insurrections amongst us’. Enslavement was therefore one of the ‘Guards for their future security’ that ‘one people’ needed against another, at least until that enemy could be expatriated (in line with the belief of Jefferson and others that integration was impossible). Slavery certainly violated ‘the most sacred rights of life & liberty’ and thus troubled Jefferson deeply, but the often-quoted doctrine of salus populi est suprema lex (‘the safety of the people is the highest law’) over-rode such concerns and was the basis of a conditional proslavery (the very real inverse of William Freehling’s ‘conditional antislavery’) embedded in the Declaration’s history and historical consciousness.

For directions to the lecture room or other enquiries about this talk please email Becky Day at R.Day@hull.ac.uk

In February we have what has now become an annual fixture when current and former PhD students come to talk about their research.  This year our ‘What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute?’ event will take place on Wednesday February 15 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT, and will involve two of the students of our Falling Through the Net Cluster, James Baker and Jasmine Holding Brown.

Every year the University sets aside a sum of money to fund clusters of PhD projects on specific topics that align with its strategic plan. This money is distributed via a competition, in which departments and Institutes within the University bid for cluster projects, and are assessed by a panel for their originality, value and strategic importance. In 2018 the Institute was successful in gaining funding for this cluster, which ran from 2019-2022. Its aim was to examine the exploitation of children, and more specifically, how and why children trafficked across borders fall through the web of protections that we expect the family, the voluntary sector, and ultimately the state, to provide.

James’ work focuses on the apologies and memorials that followed from the experience of British children forced to migrate to Australia [‘Reconciling British Child Deportation to Australia, 1913-1970: Apologies, Memorials and Family Reunions’]. Jasmine has examined the treatment of British children forced to migrate to Canada alongside that of indigenous children [‘Exploiting the Poor, Erasing the Indigenous: The Child Subjects of British Settler Colonialism in Canada, c. 1867 – 1981’] I hope you will be able to come and hear what they have to say.

For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at Sophie.Blanchard@hull.ac.uk, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.

For our next public lecture on Wednesday March 15 2023, at 4.30-6pm GMT, we will be welcoming Dr Dean Clay, currently working in the Department of History at Hull. The title of his talk is “‘To Bunco a Yankee’ – The American Congo Reform Movement, 1903-1909”.

Dr Clay taught at Liverpool John Moores University, and the universities of Newcastle and Northumbria before he came to Hull. His research lies in the field of activism, particularly on movements and organisations whose activities transcend national boundaries, with a specific focus on how activists coordinate and the impact of their activism on government domestic and foreign policy.

Dr Clay was a Committee Member of the European research project ‘The Congo Free State Across Language, Culture, Media’ which ran from 2015-18, and is still Editor for the associated website, Congo Free State.  It is on this subject that he will be talking. His abstract is below.

The atrocities committed in the Congo Free State (CFS) under the rule of King Leopold II during the age of imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries eventually became one of the greatest international scandals in recorded history. Of all the participants in the scramble for Africa, engaged by most European colonial powers in the nineteenth century, Leopold II, King of the Belgians, left arguably the biggest and most damaging legacy of all. In April 1884, the United States became the first nation to formally recognise the International Association of the Congo’s claim to the territory that would become the CFS. Leopold successfully lobbied President Chester A. Arthur to support his claim, emphasising free trade, humanitarianism, his plan to end the Arab slave trade, and the involvement of Welsh-American Henry Morton Stanley in the project. It was this initial recognition of the flag of the CFS by the United States that later provided the foundations for the American Congo reform movement in the early twentieth century.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the underexplored dimensions of American humanitarian activism on the Congo issue by analysing the reform activities of the American Congo Reform Association (ACRA). The paper will examine the methods that the ACRA deployed in its reform campaign, the transnational dimensions to the campaign through its relationship with the Congo Reform Association (CRA) in Britain, and the impact of its campaign for reform on the foreign policy of the United States government. In doing so, it challenges the dominant historiographical narrative of the reform movement that attributes its success largely to the CRA, instead highlighting the significant role that the ACRA played, and demonstrates the agency of non-state humanitarian actors in directing foreign policy regarding humanitarian issues during the Progressive Era in the United States.

For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at Sophie.Blanchard@hull.ac.uk, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.

In April we move away from history towards contemporary concerns. On Wednesday 19 April 2023, at 4.30-6pm BST we welcome Dr Rosemary Broad, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Manchester.  She will talk about ‘Women in modern slavery offending’. PLEASE NOTE: This talk will also be held on campus, in the Wilberforce Building, WILB-LT12.

Dr Broad’s research includes human trafficking, modern slavery, responses to violence, organised crime, the management of offenders and prison education. She has published in the British Journal of Criminology, the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research, and the European Review of Organised Crime.

Dr Broad, who has acted as a consultant for the Home Office in a review of their modern slavery research, also has extensive work experience in criminal justice institutions and remains involved with working with perpetrators of domestic violence in the community. Her talk, outlined in the abstract below, will focus on the women who perpetrate human trafficking and modern slavery offences.

At a global scale, women are represented in human trafficking and modern slavery crimes at proportionately higher levels than almost any other type of offending (UNODC, 2020) and this trend is represented in similar ways at national and local levels. But contrary to the stereotypical narratives surrounding perpetrators of such crimes as foreign national organised criminals, many of the women that become implicated have more complex journeys into offending that require a more diverse understanding. These female perpetrators often have backgrounds of complex vulnerability, marginalisation and responsibility to care for dependent relatives which contribute to their offending as well as framing prior victimisation which also provides the foundation for later criminal involvement. This presentation will draw on over a decade of empirical research to consider the question of how the over-representation of women convicted for these offences can be explained, drawing on theoretical frameworks on women’s offending more generally as well as a more specific focus on how policy and practice responses to human trafficking, modern slavery and migration may contribute to these pathways.

For directions to the University, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at Sophie.Blanchard@hull.ac.uk To sign up to stream this lecture online please click here.

We bring our spring season to a close on Wednesday 17 May 2023, at 4.30-6PM BST with a talk by Dr Nicholas Evans, the longest standing member of the Wilberforce Institute, and Senior Lecturer in Diaspora History at the University of Hull. The title of his talk is ‘Memorialising antislavery in South Africa: unearthing black agency’.

Dr Evans researches migration to, through and from Britain, and has an interest in Jewish history, diasporas and slavery. His latest publication, edited with Professor Angela McCarthy, is Death in the Diaspora: British and Irish Gravestones (Edinburgh University Press, 2020). This pioneering comparative study of migrant death markers (gravestones and epitaphs) across the British and Irish worlds reflects his more recent interests in death studies and memorialisation.

Dr Evans, whose range of interests sees him regularly invited to give talks at local, national and international level, is well-known to many of you. For this talk, he will draw together his work on slavery and gravestones. His abstract is below.

Following the passing of the British Slave Trade Act in 1807, the Royal Navy assumed the role of ending slave trading by British vessels, and those of other nations, around the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. One of the key centres for this antislavery endeavour was the Cape Station located at Simon’s Town, South Africa. Despite the perception that the crews involved in this liberating endeavour were exclusively white, evidence from the oldest surviving naval cemetery in Simon’s Town challenges this view. This presentation thereby reveals how people freed from slavery during the nineteenth century played an active role in helping other Africans to maintain their freedom.

For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at Sophie.Blanchard@hull.ac.uk, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.

I hope there is something here to draw your interest. If there is anything else you would like to know please get in touch with me at Judith.Spicksley@hull.ac.uk or Sophie at the email address above. We look forward to welcoming you in person or online.