The ‘Migration and Modern Slavery: Voicing the Journeys’ two-day conference aims to bring together leading academics and practitioners to explore issues of modern slavery and migration through the voices of those on migratory journeys. It will pay particular attention to their journeys, their treatment on arrival at their destinations, and how survivors of modern slavery and practitioners can help to improve these aspects of survivors’ experiences.
To practically implement obligations imposed by international and domestic laws, criminological and socio-legal research, along with policymakers and legislators, must be aware of victims’ backgrounds, lived experiences, and needs. Research and practice must be informed by insights from individuals with experience of modern slavery and those who may be vulnerable to exploitation. Each person affected holds crucial qualitative evidence that academics, policymakers, and practitioners must listen to and incorporate into their work.
This conference will therefore explore the following key issues:
• The importance of engaging survivors with precarious immigration status;
• National and international legal obligations and slavery vulnerabilities;
• How to minimise risks of modern slavery within supply chains;
• How to develop multi-agency strategic partnerships to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders including those with lived experience.
Over the course of the two days, attendees will hear from academic and professional experts and will be invited to engage in discussions to help better understand the correlations between migration and modern slavery, and to share best practice in supporting those who are subject to these processes.
Day 1: Academic focused day
Keynote speaker, Dr Cristiano D’Orsi, University of Johannesburg – ‘The New Slave Trade: Migration and Modern Slavery in Africa’
This two-day interactive conference will be held at the Wilberforce Institute located on High Street in the old town of Kingston Upon Hull. The Wilberforce Institute makes up part of a small but unique museum quarter that includes the Wilberforce House Museum, birthplace of William Wilberforce, famous abolitionist and campaigner against the transatlantic slave trade.
There are various large public car parks located a few minutes’ walk from the building. If you travel by train, you can enjoy a 10 to 15-minute walk through the centre of Hull taking in either Queens Gardens and the statue of Wilberforce, or if you prefer, you can make your way past the Marina and through the cobbled streets of the Old Town. The full address is The Wilberforce Institute, Oriel Chambers, 27 High Street Hull, HU1 1NE.
Food and drink
Lunch and refreshments will be provided on both days, and we will be hosting a conference dinner on the evening of 27th March, the cost of which will also be covered. Please let us know in advance if you have any specific dietary requirements, and/or would like to attend the conference dinner by emailing Sophie and Megan (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are able to offer funds to cover national and international travel and accommodation on a first-come first-served basis. If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please contact us to let us know an estimation of your travel costs and if you would like accommodation.
This is a two-day event which is suitable for academics and practitioners. However, Day 1 is more academic focused, and Day 2 more practitioner focused. Please feel free to attend either one or both of the days.
Day 1 will begin at 11:00 with registration, tea or coffee and close around 17:15 for drinks and then dinner for those who wish.
Day 2 will begin at 09:00 for tea or coffee and close around 16:30.
The University of Hull has increased accessibility to Oriel Chambers by including a platform lift to gain access to the building’s ground floor area. However, fire safety measures mean that in the event of a fire alarm activation this platform and the main lift cannot be used. At present therefore, the Institute can only be deemed accessible to anyone that is able to use stairs to perform a safe exit. However, we are working with the University of Hull Estates and Health and Safety teams to ensure that, as a listed building, and where reasonably practicable, further improvements will be made within the parameters of the planning regulations for future events.
Over the last few months, we have been delighted to welcome two new members of staff into the Wilberforce Institute to extend and strengthen our modern slavery research. Here the first, Dr Daniel Ogunniyi, explains what drew him to anti-slavery research and what he will bring to the Institute.
What drew you to anti-slavery research?
Well, I will say serendipity and a deep interest in social justice. Early on, I was fascinated by questions around vulnerability and childhood issues. My interests would later develop specifically around child labour and the silencing of marginalised groups in society. I imagined that a law degree might help mitigate vulnerabilities if effectively mobilised. So, as a first step, I enrolled to study law. After completing this degree, I quickly realised I had zero interest in the everyday life of a lawyer. I then decided on pursuing an LLM in international law drawn by the prospects of working at the UN or becoming a career diplomat. Again, my PhD would later refocus itself around child labour and child trafficking. I am glad the research directed its own course. This was the start of my journey into the anti-slavery space.
Tell us about your professional background
My background is quite varied. Before joining the Wilberforce Institute, I held various positions at the UN and in many universities around the world. In particular, I worked at the UNICEF Office of Research in Florence, Italy, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, Netherlands, Centre for Human Rights in Pretoria, South Africa, Redeemer’s University, Nigeria, and the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham among others. My work with these organisations mostly revolved around researching international law in relation to modern slavery, children’s Rights, and humanitarian law. However, the OPCW was quite a unique one – it had no direct link to modern slavery. It nevertheless offered me a chance to work with lawyers from different legal traditions. As the nature of the role involved international diplomacy and the rendering of legal advice to states parties and the secretariat, it offered me a chance to see international law in action, which also shapes my thinking about anti-slavery governance today. Given the physical proximity between the OPCW Secretariat and the Peace Palace where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is based, I enjoyed frequenting the ICJ library to do research. The diverse experiences have been quite rewarding.
How does your background inform your current work?
Oh, there is a strong link between my background and what I now do at the Wilberforce Institute and Hull University. I firmly believe that Modern slavery can be eradicated through effective implementation of the law at different levels. Given my law background, I mostly look at modern slavery eradication through the prism of the law and how legal reforms could improve antislavery governance on the ground. Of course, antislavery governance becomes complicated when there are no prohibitions of elements constituting modern slavery. So, part of my work is to understand domestic implementation or lack of it in different countries. Of course, I do also hold a teaching position at the Hull Law School, which aligns well with my academic and professional background.
What do you think are some of the misconceptions about modern slavery?
There’s quite a few of them. That slavery belongs to the past and is non-existent in the modern world or that slavery happens in some distant country at the end of the earth (this thinking is particularly widespread in western countries). It is interesting to mention that based on data from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the majority of victims seeking support in the NRM system are UK nationals. Some also view slavery purely from the perspective of de jure ownership or when victims are shackled. These views are somewhat inaccurate and slavery in the modern sense could take more subtle forms.
What is something people do not know about you?
I am a bit of a runner and a keen boxing and UFC fan.
For Holocaust Memorial Day 2023, Dr Nicholas Evans reveals the story behind one of the less familiar names on our wall – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
When the Wilberforce Institute opened in 2006 the rear of our home at Oriel Chambers, facing Hull’s Mandela Gardens, included the names of 18 key figures from across the world who fought for human rights in different times and places. Whilst some needed no introduction, such as Nelson Mandela, Sylvia Pankhurst, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., a couple have perpetually left visitors to our Institute and the surrounding Hull Museums asking for further information. One of the entries on the space entitled ‘Names On The Wall’ that people most often ask about is that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who died a month before the end of the Second World War. For Holocaust Memorial Day this year we highlight aspects of his life that justify his inclusion in our list of freedom fighters – he was executed because of his opposition to Nazism.
Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Poland, then part of Germany, in 1906. A German Lutheran theologian, he studied in both Europe and America, but was especially influenced by his time in the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. Upon returning to Germany in 1931, his career as a scholar and cleric was dramatically affected by the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933. Two days after Hitler’s installation as Chancellor he spoke out against the Nazi leader, appealing to fellow Christians to oppose Nazism, and producing one of his most memorable quotes “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself”.
Alert to the dangers of Hitler’s rhetoric and Nazi influence on the German Evangelical Church, Bonhoeffer appealed for racial justice and founded his own seminary that was opposed to Nazi influence. When this was closed by the Gestapo, he found himself unable to officially speak or write out against the evils of the Holocaust.
Prevented from leaving Germany, he instead became part of the resistance movement fighting against Nazism within Germany, but was arrested in April 1943 for his involvement in Operation 7, a scheme that managed to smuggle fourteen Jews on deportation lists from Germany to Switzerland on visas; he was imprisoned awaiting trial. In February 1945, during the final days of Nazism, he was sent to the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp, before ultimately being stripped naked and executed at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9 April 1945, four weeks before Victory in Europe [VE] day. His influence continued beyond his death, however, with adherents including Dr Martin Luther King Jr. citing his writings and his attempts to bridge ecclesiastical divides to champion freedoms. Later declared a twentieth century martyr by many churches, a statue of him was added to the exterior of Westminster Abbey in 1998.
Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked on 27 January in the UK since 2001 as a day to remember all victims of genocide because it was the anniversary of the Russian liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. However I hope this blog is a timely reminder that death and slavery did not end on 27 January 1945. Like Bonhoeffer, countless innocent lives have been ended prematurely by both genocide and slavery around the world before, during and after the liberation of Auschwitz. This Holocaust Memorial Day, I argue, we need more people like Bonhoeffer to make a stand against those tyrants who seek to deprive us of our basic human rights. In very uncertain times, we should not take freedom for granted, but must speak out. Ordinary people can make a difference!
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.
The Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, in collaboration with the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership and national partners invite you to our upcoming free one-day conference ‘Long Term Support for Survivors of Modern Slavery – The Importance of Modern Slavery Champions Within Organisations’.
The Global Slavery Index estimates there are 40.3 million people trapped in some form of slavery around the globe today. In the UK, 12,727 people were officially identified as potential victims of modern slavery in 2021. Slavery and trafficking are crimes punishable by severe penalties, yet the problem remains and is growing. Providing long term support to victims and survivors of slavery and trafficking is vital in helping people make lasting and meaningful recoveries, to avoid further trauma and re-exploitation, and in some cases to support prosecutions against their exploiters. Access to support services for victims of slavery and trafficking in the UK is provided through the National Referral Mechanism [NRM]. People who are referred into the NRM are entitled to a range of support services such as accommodation, financial assistance, counselling, or help accessing legal advice.
However, research shows us that there is a distinct lack of understanding of what support people need once they have exited this provision or indeed why they sometimes choose to decline any offer of support in the first place.
This one-day conference at the Aura Innovation Centre brings together new empirical research findings by leading academics, stories from survivors, and experts working in policing and victim support to explore and discuss the importance of having skilled professionals in key positions within organisations who can work with victims to improve their long-term outcomes.
Over the course of the day, you will hear from our expert academic and professional speakers on their research findings and the real-world strategies they use to engage and safeguard victims with a focus on agency and identity.
You will take part in interactive workshops, working with colleagues to discuss and develop new approaches you can apply in your own organisation. The day will end with a panel session giving you an opportunity to pose questions to our speakers.
DC Colin Ward, Modern Slavery Unit, Manchester Police – Safeguarding victims in policing
Richard Eastwood, Justice and Care, embedded in Essex Police – The role of victim navigators
Major Kathy Betteridge, Director Anti Trafficking & Modern Slavery, The Salvation Army – ‘We are not for sale’, the role of the Salvation Army
Jen Nghishitende, University of Hull, PHD research – “Freedom is a constant struggle”: Women’s journeys after modern slavery in the United Kingdom
About the venue
This is a free event hosted by the University of Hull in a unique and state of the art venue. The Aura Innovation Centre is located at the heart of the UK’s Energy Estuary, in one of the greenest business parks in the country – Bridgehead in Hessle, East Yorkshire. On track to receive a BREEAM Excellent rating for its design, construction, and materials sourced through local supply chains, the Innovation Centre is in the top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings. And, with an A-rated Energy Performance Certificate the AIC outperforms most new, similar buildings.
Registration and Dietary Requirements
Click hereto register for this free one-day event.
Lunch and refreshments are provided. Vegan and vegetarian options are available but please let us know in advance if you have any specific dietary requirements by emailing our interns Sophie and Megan.
This year we have moved our lectures to a Wednesday afternoon to avoid clashes with the University teaching schedule. We hope you will be able to join us in our lovely building at 27 High Street, Hull, to hear what our speakers have to say. However, if you are unable to make it to the Institute, specific links for those who would like to stream online will be made available as each talk approaches. These can be found by clicking on the ‘Events’ tab of our blog.
For more details of how to sign up to stream lectures, or directions to the Institute, please contact Beki Bloomfield at R.Bloomfield@hull.ac.uk
The full programme of lectures for Autumn and Spring 2022-23 is available on the ‘Event Programme’ tab, and I will be providing more information about the Spring lectures in our annual programme early next year.
In this blog I want to draw your attention to the three public lectures – on very different topics – that we have on offer this autumn.
We begin, as usual, with our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture, on Wednesday October 12 at 5.30pm.
For those of you who don’t know, the Lecture was created in the early 1970s by Sydney Smith, a well-known local councillor who devoted a good part of his adult life to the city of Hull. Having been first elected to Hull City Council in 1923, he served almost continuously on the Council until 1942, taking on the role of Lord Mayor in 1940. When he retired from the Council some two decades later, he was made an Honorary Alderman for life. His initial financial bequest was intended to support a four-year lecture series only, but this was converted into a perpetual endowment through a trust fund. If you are interested in knowing more about Sydney and his life you can read Mike Turner’s two-part blog, here and here.
The Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture now kicks off our series of annual lectures, and is the highlight of our annual lecture programme. We are lucky enough to have been able to attract some very prestigious speakers over the years, and this year is no different. Professor Matthew Smith is currently Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership at University College London, where he is also Professor of History. He worked for several years before that at the University of the West Indies.
In this talk, Professor Smith turns his attention and ours to the pressing matter of teaching slavery, as he discusses ‘Righting History: Why Teaching Slavery Matters’. His presentation will address some of the approaches, comments, and conflicting narratives of the history of slavery and abolition that have emerged in public spaces in recent years. This will be framed by a discussion on the history of the teaching of Caribbean slavery since the foundational work of Eric Williams in 1944 and the establishment of the University of the West Indies History department in the 1950s. It will also contrast educational imperatives on teaching slavery in the Caribbean and the UK generally, and the current demands of a younger generation for new approaches to how we teach and talk about slavery in the twenty-first century.
For those of you who would like to stream, please register here.
On Wednesday November 9 at 4.30pm we welcome Dr Jim Powell, Honorary Research Associate in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool, who has been ploughing a very different slavery furrow – he has recently published a study of Britain’s raw cotton trade in the nineteenth century.
Taking his title and material from that book, Losing the Thread – Cotton, Liverpool and the American Civil War, Dr Powell will talk about the effect of the American Civil War on Britain’s raw cotton trade and on the Liverpool cotton market. Before the civil war, America supplied 80 per cent of Britain’s cotton. In August 1861, this fell to almost zero, where it remained for four years. Despite increased supplies from elsewhere, Britain’s largest industry received only 36 per cent of the raw material it needed from 1862 to 1864.
Losing the Thread feels very timely, given the current supply constraints that the war between Russia and Ukraine has created. Dr Powell’s book establishes the facts of Britain’s raw cotton supply during the war: how much there was of it, in absolute terms and in relation to the demand, where it came from and why, how much it cost, and what impact the reduced supply had on Britain’s cotton manufacture. It includes an enquiry into the causes of the Lancashire cotton famine, which contradicts the historical consensus on the subject. Examining the impact of the civil war on Liverpool and its cotton market, the book disputes the historic portrayal of Liverpool as a solidly pro-Confederate town. It also demonstrates how reckless speculation infested and distorted the raw cotton market, and lays bare the shadowy world of the Liverpool cotton brokers, who profited hugely from the war while the rest of Lancashire starved.
For those of you who would like to stream, please register here.
For our final talk of 2022, at 4.30pm on Wednesday December 7, we shift gear again, welcoming Dr Lucy Mayblin, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sheffield.
Dr Mayblin in a Political Sociologist. Her researchcentres on the politics of asylum, particularly in Britain, and has included explorations of the connections between Britain’s colonial past and asylum policy today. In 2020 Lucy won one of the Philip Leverhulme Prizes for Sociology and from September 2021 has been working on an archival project on the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees, and a contemporary exploration of the international spread of ‘crimes of solidarity’ (where citizens are punished for helping irregular migrants).
The title of her talk is ‘Criminal assistance: Understanding Crimes of Solidarity’. Over the past 20-30 years a shift has taken place in the way European, and Western states more broadly, understand asylum seeking. Asylum migration has ceased to be understood as primarily a humanitarian phenomenon, and it has come to be thought of a primarily a phenomenon of economic migration. Steps have accordingly been taken to prevent would-be asylum seekers from arriving in their territories, and to limit their rights if they do manage to arrive. This has inevitably led to the illegalisation of movement, particularly the movement of people who are seeking sanctuary. But the inhospitable actions of states have been countered by moves by a diverse range of citizens and other residents to help ‘irregular’ migrants. For example, by saving them from drowning in the sea, perishing in mountains or deserts, offering them shelter, food, showers, lifts or other acts of support such as documenting border violence. In response, states are increasingly seeking to criminalise these helpers, particularly by casting them as smugglers. This talk will discuss the emergence of what have been dubbed ‘crimes of solidarity’, how we can understand this phenomenon, and where the research gaps are in scholarly work on this topic.
For those of you who would like to stream, please register here.
I hope I have whetted your appetite for intellectual stimulation, but if there is anything else you would like to know please get in touch with me at Judith.Spicksley@hull.ac.uk or Beki at the email address above. We look forward to welcoming you in person or online.
Dr Chloe Wilson, Lecturer in Law, Lincoln Law School and Tom Hammond, PhD student at the University of Hull
We have a packed programme of lectures for Spring 2022, and hope you will join us in our lovely building at 27 High Street, Hull, to hear what our speakers have to say. A general overview of the programme is given below, and specific links for those who would like to stream online will be available as each talk approaches. These can be found by clicking on the ‘Events’ tab of our blog. For more details of how to sign up to stream lectures please contact Beki Bloomfield (R.Bloomfield@hull.ac.uk). The full programme of events is also available on the ‘Event Programme’ tab.
We begin with our regular ‘What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute’ spot on Thursday 10 February at 4pm. This year we have Dr Chloe Wilson, who submitted her thesis in February last year, and Tom Hammond (T.Hammondemail@example.com), who is in the final throes of his dissertation. Chloe’s research looked at the identification and treatment of human trafficking victims, while Tom has been examining surveillance, migration and identity in Brexit Britain.
In March we have three public lectures on offer. On Thursday March 3 (4-5.30pm GMT) we are excited to welcome Dr Bruce Ragsdale, former director of the US Federal Judicial History Office, who is coming to talk to us about his recent book, Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery. Dr Ragsdale will discuss how Washington’s management of enslaved agricultural labour expands the more familiar biography of the revolutionary general and first president.
On Thursday March 17 (4-5.30pm GMT) we are delighted to welcome back Dr Filipa Ribeiro da Silva, Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, who worked as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Wilberforce Institute between 2009 and 2012. Her current research interests focus on the history of population, labour, migration and trade in Sub-Saharan Africa during the pre-colonial and colonial periods. She has also been involved in the translation of Inquisition materials, recently published as African Voices from the Inquisition.
On Thursday March 24 (4-5.30pm GMT) we are thrilled to welcome Dr Lucy Mayblin (@LucyMayblin) Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sheffield, who will be talking on the subject of ‘Criminal assistance: Understanding Crimes of Solidarity’. Dr Mayblin’s research focuses on asylum, human rights, policy-making, and the legacies of colonialism, and her latest book, with Joe Turner, is Migration Studies and Colonialism (2021). She was recently awarded the UK Philip Leverhulme Prize for her research achievements in the area of asylum and migration.
In April we have two talks. At the first, on Thursday April 7 (4-5.30pm BST), we are delighted to host one of our Honorary Fellows, Dr Sheryllynne Haggerty, who will talk to us on ‘Tales of the Enslaved in Jamaica, 1756’. This paper comes from a wider project based on a cache of letters sent from Jamaica to Britain that forms the basis of her forthcoming book.
At the second, on Thursday April 28 (4-5.30pm BST) we are thrilled that Professor Geraldine van Bueren QC, is coming to discuss ‘Class Discrimination and Children’s Rights’. Professor Van Bueren QC held the Chair of International Human Rights Law at Queen Mary University of London and is Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford. She is a member of Doughty Street Chambers and was appointed an honorary Queen’s Counsel in recognition of her contributions to national and international law.
Finally, we are excited to round off our programme of Spring Lectures with a talk on Thursday May 12 (4-5.30pm BST) by Dr Virginia Morrow, Visiting Professor at University College London. Dr Morrow will summarise 15 years of research findings on changing trends in children’s work from the Young Lives study, an international study of childhood poverty following the lives of 12,000 children in four countries (Ethiopia, India in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Peru and Vietnam (www.younglives.org.uk).
This talk will be given by Alex Renton, author of Blood Legacy: Reckoning With a Family’s Story of Slavery, and will include contributions from Cecile Oxaal and Karen Okra, who will both share details of their own family histories.
Alex’s ancestors were prominent Scots who were also slave holders in Tobago and Jamaica. In the excerpt below, Alex reflects on what he decided to do when skeletons fell out of his family cupboard. As he notes, it’s not easy to stuff them back in. When they’re 150 years old, and more, you might think they represent what police drama calls a cold case. But often the old crimes turn out to have much more relevance today than first appears.
Alex’s family’s cupboard was an archive store-room in the old house in Scotland where his grandparents lived. His grandfather was a historian, in charge of Scotland’s national archive for twenty years. At home he carefully curated the family’s own papers, which went back to the seventeenth century. Several of his books on Scottish history were based on them. But in the great mass of letters, diaries and accounts was a story that he never got around to telling, or that he decided was best left untold.
‘Like many old families in Britain, we grew up with a legend of our ancestors’ essential goodness. The men whose pictures hung on the walls of the old house had played their role in the management of the best empire the world had ever known, we learnt: a benevolent machine for civilising the greater part of the globe. But there was another, less pride-inducing side of the story. The first I knew of it was seeing, in my grandfather’s catalogue of the papers, the words ‘Tobago’ and ‘Jamaica’, again and again. His own grandfather had been a third generation plantation-owner: he had received £1.5 million in government compensation money in 1833 at abolition for ‘giving up’ the 198 enslaved people in Jamaica.
My family has glossed over this history, as my education did, as Britain has. This denial – of the 3.25 million Africans who were enslaved and transported, of the generations that were exploited and abused afterwards, and of what the 12% of GDP slavery-related industries meant to Britain in the early 1800s – is a crime that still toxifies Britain today.
It also acts to deny that the racism and inequality that afflicts our 21st century country has its roots in the story of British slavery and colonialism. I believe it is right for people like me, with the privilege of access to this history, and as beneficiaries of the wealth of slavery, to acknowledge it today. We cannot change the history, but – as Sir Geoff Palmer, campaigner in Scotland for acknowledgement of the country’s history in enslavement puts it – ‘we can still change the consequences’.
Alex will be joined by Cecil Oxaal who will talk about her family history, one of mixed heritage from wealthy white slaveholders. Karen Okra will also be sharing her family heritage. Together our speakers will offer three different but equally interesting perspectives on people in Britain with Caribbean histories.
Tonight Professor Douglas Hamilton of Sheffield Hallam University will give our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture. If you haven’t yet signed up you can do so here where you will also find details of the lecture. Having given us the first part of his brief history of the lecture last week, Emeritus Professor Michael Turner concludes this week with a discussion of the end of its first phase, and its later re-inauguration.
Sydney Smith died in 1984 at the age of 99, but the annual lecture he founded in 1972 continued for another four years before coming at that point to an abrupt end. In October 1988 the Department of Economic and Social History was looking forward to welcoming Arthur Marwick, the flamboyant professor from the Open University, to deliver a talk, but he never came.
The 1980s saw quite considerable debate and sometimes unrest in the University sector. Many universities embarked on radical restructuring programmes in order to embrace some of the new technologies and subject areas that society would demand in the future. More traditional areas of learning came under attack as intellectual knowledge was no longer valued for its own sake. Universities embraced different ways to confront the more targeted funding provided by the conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher. More specialisation took place, for example, and the activities of so-called fringe subjects, especially languages, were discontinued. Members of staff moved to other universities where central funding for their activities was increased. The University of Hull lost Classics, Scandinavian Studies, Dutch Studies, and Russian, and in the sciences the Physics Department was lost. Some of these activities did return, but with much reduced activity. It was the attack on Philosophy which led to the redundancy of a specific lecturer, but it also served to ignite the fuse of revolt. Redundancy was not a word easily applied to the University sector and Hull became the first or at least the most prominent University to declare a redundancy. In consequence the AUT, the national Association of University Teachers, rallied to Hull’s cause and a boycott of all activity at Hull was declared. The impact was considerable. The University found it very difficult to recruit external examiners not only for undergraduate degrees but also to examine research theses. Colleagues were no longer invited to speak at external events, and external speakers cancelled their visits to Hull. Most significantly for our story here, Arthur Marwick cancelled his invitation to give the Annual Sydney Smith Lecture.
For whatever reason, the lecture was not reinstated once order had been restored, though the income from its investments grew nicely during the years of double-digit interest rates. In 2001 the Department of Economic and Social History was amalgamated with History. From 2004, however, the Wilberforce Institute began to take shape, under the three ‘WISE’ men who founded it, David Richardson, Michael (Mike) Turner and Gary Craig; it opened its doors late in 2006. Mike and David had both worked in the old Department of Economic and Social History, and so in 2009 they negotiated with the University to release the Alderman Sydney Smith endowment specifically to the Wilberforce Institute in order to re-inaugurate the lecture. It was a perfect match, a lecture in social and labour history but specifically devoted to slavery and all its exploitative labour connotations. To make this rebirth something to be remembered, the distinguished American historian, Professor Seymour Drescher, was invited from Pittsburgh in 2010. His credentials included books on slavery, antislavery, abolition and most controversially his Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition (1977).
Later speakers included Professors Marcus Wood in 2011, Philip D. Morgan in 2012, Catherine Hall in 2013 and Verene A. Shepherd in 2014. In 2018, we welcomed Professor Jean Allain, a scholar of international law who helped draft the Bellagio Harvard Guidelines on the Legal Parameters of Slavery. Two of our former Directors have also given lectures – Professors David Richardson in 2016, and John Oldfield in 2020.
Over the years, the lecture has moved between the University Campus and the Wilberforce Institute. Last year Covid-19 forced John Oldfield to deliver his lecture using a virtual format, but this year we are planning once again to hold the Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture in the Institute, with live-streaming of Professor Hamilton’s talk for those who cannot make it. We would be delighted to welcome you in person or inline.
Reproduced by kind permission of Hull History Centre
Aren’t these the kind of instructions often given in schools?
Perhaps on occasion, but on Saturday October 16th this is the guidance we will be adopting on the Walk for Freedom, which is taking place this year in Hull for the first time. A21, the charity behind the walk, describe it as a silent protest against contemporary slavery. Its aim is to raise awareness that slavery still exists.
Those of us working or studying at the Wilberforce Institute strongly believe in social justice and the principle of freedom for all. Being next door to the birthplace of William Wilberforce, I have been constantly reminded that millions of people are still living in situations of contemporary slavery, such as forced labour, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and forced marriage. So, what can we as individuals do, when it feels that any action we take won’t make much of a difference to the 40 million people estimated to be in some form of slavery today?
Well, on one of A21’s awareness cards, it says “when we show up for the freedom of others, we show up for the world we want to see. A world where justice, human dignity, and freedom prevails. Your steps matter. Your voice matters. For those enslaved in your city, and around the world.” By walking here, or in a city close to us, or even by taking up A21’s virtual challenge, we can all play a part in learning more about slavery. And by having more discussions on the topic, by more people learning what to look out for and how to report it, I would argue we can all play our part.
We’d love to have you join us on the Hull walk, and this is not just a local event – we will be joining with people in walks organised in over 50 countries, in hundreds of locations across the world, all on the same day. So, what do you need to know about the Hull walk? I will try and answer the most common questions below, but feel free to email me if you have any other queries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where is the walk taking place?
We will be following a historic route around Hull, starting from the Wilberforce Monument and walking down Humber Street, along the marina, across the new Murdoch connection bridge, and through the city centre. Our walk will end in Queens Gardens, where Wilberforce will be atop his 90-foot column, looking down on us as we finish.
What time are we walking?
We are starting the walk at 11am and as it is a 2-mile route, it will take us around an hour to walk it. We are suggesting that everyone registers online, via the A21 website before October 16th, but we will be able to register people on the day, if preferred. Registration will be open by 10am.
Who is supporting the walk?
Raising awareness is always a team effort and huge thanks need to go to the amazing support offered by my colleagues and friends at the Freedom Festival, the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership and of course, those at the Wilberforce Institute. We are all passionate about doing whatever we can to raise awareness of the topic.
More about A21
For more information on A21, please have a look at their website: https://www.a21.org/ where you can read more about the charity and the work they do, and also find information on the walk and this year’s virtual challenges.
If you are concerned that someone might be held in slavery, forced labour or being exploited in other ways, you can always call the Police (999 or 111, depending on whether it is an emergency or not) or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or you can report or contact them online.