We hold our events in the Wilberforce Institute whenever possible. We aim to offer them also as live-streamed events for those who are unable to join us in person. For more information please contact Judith Spicksley ( or Sophie Blanchard ( For our full programme of lectures for Autumn 2022 and Spring 2023 please go to the ‘Event programme’ tab above.

Public Lecture: Women in modern slavery offending


Wednesday April 19, 2023, 4.30-6pm BST

University of Hull, Cottingham Road Campus, Wilberforce Building, WILB-LT12

Dr Rosemary Broad, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Manchester

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, European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research, and The European Review of Organised Crime. She has acted as a consultant for the Home Office in a review of their modern slavery research. Dr Broad 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 that 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, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.


Public Lecture: ‘To Bunco a Yankee’ – The American Congo Reform Movement, 1903-1909.

Wednesday March 15, 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street Hull. HU1 1NE

Dr Dean Clay, Department of History, University of Hull

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.

This event has now taken place.


‘What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute?’

Wednesday February 15, 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street Hull. HU1 1NE

Students of our Falling Through the Net Cluster, James Baker and Jasmine Holding Brown, talk about their findings, as their projects come to an end.

In 2018 the Institute was successful in gaining funding for a cluster of PhD scholarships designed 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. In this talk, two of the successful candidates, James Baker and Jasmine Holding Brown, will be talking about their findings.

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.

This event has now taken place.


Public Lecture: A ‘Cruel War against Human Nature’: Conditional Proslavery in the US Declaration of Independence

Held in conjunction with the Cultures of Incarceration Centre

Wednesday 25 January, 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT

University of Hull, Cottingham Road Campus, Wilberforce Building, WILB-LT12

Professor Steven Sarson, Professor of American Civilisation in the Department of English at Jean Moulin University, Lyon, France

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.

This event has now taken place. We are hoping to make a recording available in the near future


Public Lecture: Criminal assistance: Understanding Crimes of Solidarity

Wednesday 7 December, 2022, 4.30-6pm GMT

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street Hull. HU1 1NE

Dr Lucy Mayblin, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Sheffield

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.

This event has now taken place. We are hoping to make a recording available in the near future.


Book launch: The Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy: Scotland and Caribbean Slavery, 1775-1838

Friday 11 November 2022, 10am-12midday

Join us at the Wilberforce Institute on November 11, 2022, for the launch of The Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy: Scotland and Caribbean Slavery, 1775-1838, by Dr Stephen Mullen of the University of Glasgow. The launch will run from 10am to 12midday followed by refreshments. To register your place for the event and information on how to get to the Institute please email


Public Lecture: Losing the Thread – Cotton, Liverpool and the American Civil War

Wednesday 9 November 2022, 4.30-6pm GMT

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street, Hull. HU1 1NE

Dr Jim Powell, Honorary Research Associate, University of Liverpool

Dr Powell will talk about the effect of the American Civil War on Britain’s raw cotton trade and on the Liverpool cotton market. His book examines the parameters 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, and demonstrates how reckless speculation infested and distorted the raw cotton market, laying bare the shadowy world of the Liverpool cotton brokers, who profited hugely from the war while the rest of Lancashire starved.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording please click here.


Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture

Righting History: Why Teaching Slavery Matters

Wednesday 12 October 2022, 5.30-7pm BST

Wilberforce Institute, 27 High Street, Hull. HU1 1NE

Professor Matthew J. Smith

Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership

This year our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture will be given by Matthew J. Smith, Professor of History at University College London, and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. In his talk, Professor Smith 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 discuss the current demands of a younger generation for new approaches to how we teach and talk about slavery in the 21st century. 

This even has now taken place.


We The Cimarrons: Screening and discussion panel with the director

Wilberforce Building, Lecture Theatre 15, the University of Hull

Tuesday 21 June 2022, 6.30-8pm

In the River Yurumangui in Pacific Colombia, in 1810 enslaved people rebelled and declared themselves free, their leader becoming King Pascual I.

Today the descendants of these rebels have legal title over this land and live in a semi-autonomous community. But two centuries later, Yurumanguí’s people have to still live as ‘cimarrons’.

They suffer from armed attack from breakaway rebel groups, the encroachment of drug wars, and the devastation of their ancestral lands from illegal crops, illicit mining and over-logging.

While many of the nearby rivers are utterly destroyed, their people forced to leave for the cities, the Yurumanguí community is courageously fighting back, using only their heroic cimarrón history and African-based culture. They are determined that their own ways and cultures contribute to the survival of the world.

The community rarely lets outsiders visit. We the Cimarrons allows viewers to go inside this astonishing community.

Join us in Lecture Theatre 15 of the Wilberforce building to experience this piece of short cinema that explores the culture of the Cimarrons, followed by a discussion panel including the film’s director Emma Christopher, and some of our academics from the Wilberforce Institute, as well as key participants in the production of We The Cimarrons.

If you are interested to attend, please register here.


Wilberforce Institute Summer Webinar: The African notions of freedom: A philosophical appraisal

Thursday June 16, 4-5.30PM BST

In this webinar Dr Chapfika of the University of Hull will discuss the difference between the African and Western conceptions of freedom, looking at how these notions were affected by slavery and colonisation, and consider scholarly views about the African postcolonial predicament.

This event has now taken place.


Wilberforce Institute Summer Debate: Principles and Agents: The British Slave Trade and Its Abolition by David Richardson

Thursday May 19, 4-6PM BST

This online only event will feature five internationally renowned scholars, Professor Christopher Brown, Dr Bronwell Everill, Professor Richard Huzzey, Dr Dexnell Peters, and Dr Nicholas Radburn. They will join Professor David Richardson, founding Director of the Wilberforce Institute, and leading authority on slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, to debate the findings of his recent monograph.

This event has now taken place. We hope to make a recording available in due course.


Public lecture: Understanding children’s work: evidence from the Young Lives study in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam

Thursday May 12, 4-5.30PM BST

Dr Virginia Morrow, Visiting Professor at University College London

Dr Morrow’s presentation will summarise 15 years of research findings on changing trends in children’s work from Young Lives, 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 ( The presentation will describe how children try to manage school alongside work, how gender affects care and work responsibilities over childhood and adolescence, and how children themselves view the positive and negative aspects of their work. The presentation will conclude with a consideration of policy responses.

This event has now taken place. We hope to make a recording available in due course.


Public Lecture: Class Discrimination and Children’s Rights

Thursday April 28, 4-5.30PM BST

Professor Geraldine van Bueren QC, Queen Mary University, London

Professor van Bueren QC will enquire whether class discrimination ought to be a concern for international children’s rights and look at how it hinders children’s present and future. She will argue that class discrimination is not only an issue for the UK but also globally. She will argue in addition that there is sufficient space in national, regional and international law to both prevent and protect against class discrimination. Finally she will make recommendations to prevent children suffering from class discrimination.

Professor van Bueren QC held the Chair of International Human Rights Law at Queen Mary University, London, and is Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford. She is a barrister and member of Doughty Street Chambers and was appointed an honorary Queen’s Counsel in recognition of her scholastic contributions to national and international law. 

This event has now taken place. We hope to make a recording available in due course.


Wilberforce Institute Webinar: Indigenous Slavery in the Atlantic World

Thursday March 31, 2022, 4.00-5.30pm BST

For this webinar we are delighted to welcome four speakers to talk about Indigenous slavery in the Atlantic world. The presenters are Sandi Brewster-Walker, Executive Director and Government Affairs Officer for the Montaukett Indian Nation; Linford D. Fisher, Associate Professor at Brown University; Rebecca Goetz, Associate Professor at New York University; and Brooke Newman, Associate Professor, at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The webinar will consider a number of aspects of Indigenous enslavement in the Atlantic world, from a digital database project known as the North Fork People of Color, 1641-1827, to Indigenous freedom suits, to the unfree labor of Indigenous children, and the case of “Polly Indian,” who attempted to obtain freedom for both herself and her enslaved daughters on the basis of Native maternal ancestry.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording please click here


Public lecture: Rethinking ‘the numbers game’ and the debate on profits from the trade in enslaved Africans and slave-produced commodities: preliminary steps towards a global approach 

Thursday March 17, 2022 4.00-5.30pm GMT

Dr Filipa Ribeiro da Silva, Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam

In this lecture Dr Ribeiro da Silva will reassess the scholarship on the gains from slave trading and commerce in slave-produced commodities, to develop a more open, long-term and global approach to the study of these activities, their consequences and legacies.

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street Hull. HU1 1NE. Doors will open 30 minutes before hand for refreshments. This event has now taken place. To view a recording, please click here.


Public lecture: Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery

Thursday March 3, 2022 4.00-5.30pm GMT

Dr Bruce Ragsdale, former director of the US Federal Judicial Office. 

Wilberforce Institute, 27, High Street Hull. HU1 1NE. Doors will open 30 minutes before hand for refreshments.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording please click here.


Public lecture: What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute?

Thursday 10 February 2022 4-5.30PM

Unfortunately we have had to cancel this event. We hope to reconvene it over the Summer.


Public lecture: A British family’s legacy of slave ownership, and its relevance today

Thursday 4 November 2021 4-5.30pm

Wilberforce Institute, 27 High Street, Hull. HU1 1NE

Alex Renton, author of Blood Legacy: Reckoning With a Family’s Story of Slavery, with a contribution from Cecile Oxaal

This event has now taken place. To view a recording please click here


Wilberforce Institute Webinar: Lessons from the Venture Smith Project

Thursday 28 October 2021 4-5.30pm

Part of Black History Month 2021, in partnership with Hull Museums

In this webinar Emeritus Professor David Richardson, Chandler Saint, Robert Forbes and Karen Okra will discuss some of the lessons learned from the Documenting Venture Smith project on both sides of the Atlantic.   This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please click here

The Documenting Venture Smith Project was launched on the anniversary of Venture Smith’s death on 19 September 2005 by David Richardson and Chandler Saint.

Broteer Furro (aka Venture Smith) was an extraordinary man. Kidnapped at a young age in West Africa, he was taken to Anomabu in modern-day Ghana where he was enslaved and put on a ship bound for the Americas. Having survived the gruelling transatlantic crossing, Broteer Furro was sold as a slave to Robertson Mumford for four gallons of rum and a piece of calico. It was Mumford who renamed him Venture ‘on account of his having purchased me with his own private venture’. []

Venture worked hard and succeeded in raising enough money to buy himself out of slavery. He then bought freedom for his family too. His story was published in 1798 as A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself.  One of the outcomes of the project has been to make this text available in Fante, a dialect that was widely spoken in Venture’s homeland of Ghana.

This webinar was envisaged as an opportunity to share with a range of interested parties strategies for promoting other black figures in history during UK Black History Month. The Documenting Venture Smith Project has done some amazing work that people in the UK could learn from. It led to a number of conferences and books, and an exhibition that visited locations in three countries: Britain; the United States; and Ghana.

Dr Nicholas Evans, Senior Lecturer at the University of Hull, has asked those participating in the event to reflect on the issues the project has thrown up, and the decisions they made during it.


Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture: Enslaved revolt and the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, c. 1790-1832

Thursday 14 October 2021, 5.30PM – 7.30PM BST

Wilberforce Institute, 27 High Street, Hull. HU1 1NE

This event has now taken place.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is doug-hamilton.png

This year our Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture will be given by Douglas Hamilton, Professor of History at Sheffield Hallam University. He is an historian of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic empire, with a particular interest in the Caribbean and slavery. He is currently working on two projects. The first is ‘An empire of islands’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council which explores how islands contributed to the establishment, extension, and maintenance of the British Empire in the Age of Sail. The second project assesses the role of the Royal Navy in eighteenth-century Caribbean society.

For this lecture, Professor Hamilton will focus on this second project, and he offers an abstract below of what he intends to cover.

While the actions of foreign navies and enemy privateers occupied the minds of naval officers, one of the gravest threats to the security of the British colonies in the Caribbean came from within. For a generation or more scholars have placed considerable emphasis on what Hilary Beckles has called ‘the 200-years war’ against enslavement, highlighting the role of the enslaved in their struggle for self-liberation. The actions of the Royal Navy as an instrument of the state to be used in suppressing revolt have received much less attention. Yet in virtually every major rising across the British Caribbean from the mid-18th century, the Royal Navy was instrumental in securing victory for the colonial elite. The existing scholarship currently highlights the ways in which the navy blurred the lines between enslavement and emancipation and provided routes into freedom; this lecture makes plain the extent to which it helped Britain and the Caribbean planter class face down challenges to the system of enslavement.


Wilberforce Institute Debate: Slavery in Massachusetts

Thursday 22 July 2021, 4PM – 6PM BST

Slavery was important everywhere in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, including in places like Massachusetts where the numbers of enslaved people were relatively small and the colonial economy was not directly based on enslavement. Slavery had been legally sanctioned in 1641, but just over a century later , according to the Massachusetts government’ own website, the population of the enslaved may have constituted little more than 2 percent of the total population.

What has drawn the recent attention of scholars however is not the number of the enslaved or their economic roles. The topic of Native American and African American slavery in Massachusetts has flourished following a series of important articles and books on a range of issues, from the rise and fall of slavery in Boston, to the life and works of Phillis Wheatley, the African American poet, to the question of why emancipation occurred, when it took place and how it happened during the American Revolution. This webinar introduces some of the major scholars who are contributing to this dynamic field – Jared Hardesty, Gloria McCahon Whiting and Margaret Newell – along with commentary from two very distinguished historians of New England and Canada – Mark Peterson and Charmaine Nelson. The speakers will reveal how important the question of slavery was in Massachusetts, despite the small number of the enslaved, and outline a range of historical opinion on slavery and emancipation in this fascinating British colony and American state.

Jared Hardesty
Gloria McCahon Whiting
Margaret Newell
Charmaine Nelson
Mark Peterson

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please click here


Windrush Day 2021

Wilberforce Institute Summer Webinar, Tuesday 22 June 2021, 4pm – 5:30pm BST

Windrush Day was introduced in June 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the Windrush migration to mark the important contributions that people from the Caribbean have made and continue to make in the UK. On Windrush Day 2021 the Wilberforce Institute welcomes you, on behalf of partners across the City of Hull, to highlight the important migrant ties between this region and the Caribbean. Chaired by Karen Okra, the panellists include: Gifty Burrows (Founder of the Africans in Hull and East Yorkshire Project); Dr Nicholas Evans (Lecturer in Diaspora at the University of Hull; and Catherine Ross and Lynda-Louise Burrell (Founders of Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum). Closing remarks will be given by Councillor Aneesa Akbar.

This event has been arranged by the University of Hull in partnership with Freedom Festival, Wilberforce House Museum, Hull Museums, Hull Libraries, Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, Hull City Council, Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum, and the Hull Afro Caribbean Association.

This event has now taken place.


Slavery and Kingston upon Hull

Wilberforce Institute Summer Webinar, Thursday 10 June 2021, 7pm – 9pm BST

Whilst most scholars have long recognised that the pervasive nature of Atlantic slavery reached far beyond the Atlantic basin, towns and cities associated with slavery have largely been framed as either proslavery or antislavery in nature. However, such labelling is problematic. As the recent work by Kate Donnington has shown, even specific buildings associated with British abolitionists such as Holy Trinity Church in Clapham and the surrounding Clapham Common, were inhabited both by supporters and opponents of slavery in Georgian Britain. The port town and later the city of Kingston upon Hull has always been associated with antislavery as the birth place of William Wilberforce, and for the support its residents gave to the abolition of the slave trade, the foundation of Sierra Leone, and later the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, but this did not prevent it being embroiled in slavery before, during and after British abolitionism. In the light of the #BlackLivesMatter debates of 2020, this webinar presentation by University of Hull scholars Dr Nicholas Evans and Professor Trevor Burnard seeks to engage with Hull’s ties to slavery between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries and ask why the city has exhibited amnesia toward less palatable aspects of its past.

This webinar is jointly hosted by the Historical Association (Hull Branch), the Wilberforce Institute (University of Hull), Freedom Festival, Wilberforce House Museum (Hull Museums), the Hull Afro Caribbean Association and the 12 Tribes of Yorkshire.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please click here


Black Lives Matter and Slavery

Wilberforce Institute Summer Webinar, Monday 7 June 2021, 4pm – 6pm BST

June 7 marks the one year anniversary of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol being torn from its perch. That event was part of a world-wide series of protests about racial injustice that were highlighted under the broad rubric of Black Lives Matter. These events do not just have a contemporary resonance. They influence how scholars of slavery and emancipation write about their topics. This forum explores how the study of slavery in the past intersects with the concerns of Black Lives Matter, broadly conceived. It arises from an approach by Trevor Burnard, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, to Gad Heuman, editor of Slavery and Abolition, the leading academic journal in the field, to produce a forum on Black Lives Matter and Slavery. This forum comes out in the June 2021 issue of this journal. It contains an introduction by Trevor Burnard and three outstanding essays by distinguished historians of slavery – Matthew J. Smith of University College, London; Tyler D. Parry of University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Daina Ramey Berry of the University of Texas at Austin. They look at post-traumatic stress disorder and slavery; `soul values’ as a mechanism whereby enslaved people dealt with the trauma of enslavement; and the changing politics around the erection of statues celebrating black lives in Jamaica. Together, these presentations illustrate how the politics of the present help us formulate new ways of thinking about how we look at slavery and emancipation in the past and how scholars can make a difference in debates over an urgent modern problem – the legacies of slavery in the present and continuing structural racism.

This event has now taken place.

Unfree labour in the Angolan coffee economy, 1830-1960

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 20 May 2021, 4pm – 6pm BST

Dr Jelmer Vos

Lecturer in Global History

University of Glasgow

We hope you will join us for the last of our Wilberforce Institute Webinars for this academic year. On Thursday 20 May, at 4pm (BST), Dr Jelmer Vos of the University of Glasgow will share with us some of his latest research on the history of forced labour in Angola.

The first coffee estates in Angola using enslaved workers emerged in the 1830s. African smallholders long remained the dominant producers of coffee in this Portuguese colony, but in the 1930s and especially after World War Two settler production based on a system of forced wage labour expanded dramatically, making Angola one of the largest producers of robusta coffee in the world. Forced labour became a prominent feature of colonial life in Angola, and eyewitnesses and historians have long debated the continuities between this form of labour coercion and proto-colonial slavery.

This paper intervenes in this literature with three propositions. First, Angola differed from other colonial coffee economies where foreign planters played a dominant role (Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Kenya) as the Portuguese government, despite fierce international pressures, was unwilling to withdraw their support from the settler economy. Second, forced labour resembled ‘modern slavery’ as described by Kevin Bales, in the sense that the system treated African farm labour as ‘disposable’. Third, despite this, its roots lay not so much in proto-colonial slavery, but rather in the equally old system of compulsory porterage. 

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please click here


CALL FOR PAPERS: An Holistic Approach to Contemporary Slavery and Climate Change

Wilberforce Institute, October 11, 2021

Saphia Fleury

PhD candidate, Falling Through the Net PhD Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

Slavery is often considered to be a problem of the past, while climate change is seen as a threat to our future. Yet the two issues present a real threat in the here and now, and often interact with exploitative and dangerous consequences.

Climate change poses an immediate and existential threat to many of the most marginalised communities on the planet. All over the world, the impacts of this global emergency are being felt right now in the form of both sudden-onset disasters and slow-onset events. When combined with ongoing deforestation, pollution and resource scarcity, the impacts of these occurrences, which are making livelihoods ever more precarious for millions of people in the poorest countries, lead to increased levels of migration and displacement.

This situation has clear implications for development and human rights. In the words of former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, climate change is ‘likely to challenge or undermine the enjoyment of almost every human right in the international bill of rights’. Among the human rights issues that emerge most strongly are those linked to exploitation such as forced and unfree labour, human trafficking and slavery.

Meanwhile, research demonstrates that slavery in industries such as mining, fishing, brick-making and timber production can raise greenhouse gas emissions and drive other forms of environmental degradation. It has even been suggested that the climate crisis could be averted completely by putting an end to contemporary slavery.

Yet to date, the relationship between climate change and contemporary slavery has received relatively little attention in the policy, advocacy and academic fields. Furthermore, mainstream approaches to both issues have traditionally favoured technocratic or legalistic approaches that place these issues within ‘siloes’, disconnected from their political, social and economic contexts.

On Monday 11 October 2021, the Wilberforce Institute with support from Anti-Slavery International will host a one-day inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral workshop to break down these siloes and explore the relationship between these twin ills. Submissions are welcome from all sectors, including academics, activists, NGO practitioners, policy makers, journalists, PhD students, and others.

We welcome proposals relating to all aspects of these complex and wide-ranging issues, including intersecting or intervening themes such as: migration and displacement; conflict and insecurity; land, livelihoods and natural resources; ethnicity, gender and race; colonial and neo-colonial legacies.

We are interested in submissions that contribute to breaking new conceptual, methodological, and empirical ground in this topic area, and in particular those that advance novel recommendations for tackling these issues at the levels of policy and practice.

Abstracts for proposed papers or presentations (200-300 words) should be sent with a short bio to Dr Chris O’Connell, Dublin City University at  and Saphia Fleury, Wilberforce Institute at

The deadline for submission is 30 June 2021. We aim to inform successful candidates by late August. There is no fee for attendance or participation in this event.

This event has now taken place.


‘Casually Lost’ and Commonly Stolen: Slave Stealing in American History 

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 22 April 2021, 4pm – 6pm BST

Dr Laura Sandy

Senior Lecturer in the History of Slavery

Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery, University of Liverpool

The practice of slave stealing spans the history of American slavery. The theft of human property was clearly a complicated crime and those involved in this ‘underground slave trade’ came from a variety of backgrounds and had an array of motives.  By uncovering these histories and integrating them into the broader narrative of slavery, Dr Sandy provides fascinating new insights into the ‘peculiar institution’ and its evolution over time and space. More broadly, this research enhances our understanding of the multifaceted, internal and external, challenges to slavery in the nineteenth century and leading up to the Civil War. Indeed, it argues that slave stealers shaped antebellum southern political thought and made a significant contribution to the rising sense of insecurity over the future of the institution, which led to the growth of sectionalism and the outbreak of war.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


On the road to eradication: Reflections on a decade of anti-slavery efforts in the UK

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 18 March 2021, 4pm GMT

Klara Skrivankova

Grants Manager for Trust for London

Formerly with Anti-Slavery International, Klara is recognised as an expert on human trafficking and forced labour in the UK and internationally. She has been working in the field since 2000. Klara’s talk, entitled, ‘On the road to eradication: Reflections on a decade of anti-slavery efforts in the UK’, will consider how the UK’s response to modern slavery has changed over the past ten years both from a broader international perspective and from the impact on communities and people’s everyday lives around the country. International developments in law and policy and also global events such as climate change will be discussed alongside Brexit, changes in immigration regulations and the economic impact of Covid-19.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute?

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 11 February 2021, 4pm GMT

Craig Barlow, Isabel Arce Zelada, Mavuto K. Banda and Jen Nghishitende

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

On February 11 at 4pm GMT we hold our regular ‘What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute?’ slot, this year by webinar, when we showcase the work of our PhD students. This year we welcome back Craig Barlow, now with his doctorate completed: he successfully defended his thesis in April last year. Craig will talk on ‘Criminal Exploitation and the Statutory Defence: Putting Theory into Practice’. Since he completed his thesis, entitled ‘Child Criminal Exploitation: A New Systemic Model to Improve Professional Assessment, Investigation and Intervention’, the model he devised has been applied to case analysis and the development of expert evidence in both the criminal and family justice systems, in relation to modern slavery, and in the wider context of the general safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. His presentation will describe and explain this approach in the context of trafficking for criminal exploitation and the statutory defence for victims of criminal exploitation under Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Our three newest PhD students, Isabel Arce Zelada, Mavuto K. Banda and Jen Nghishitende, who make up the ‘Living with Modern Slavery’ cluster, will follow, giving us insights into their research so far. All three joined us in Autumn last year, despite experiencing a number of problems as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic. They have done incredibly well in difficult circumstances and have now begun to put their own stamp on their projects.

Isabel will talk first about ‘Asylum as Violence in UK Courts’.

Her project looks at the process of asylum within the liminal state of being outside of the nation-state as a person seeking asylum. By acknowledging that we live under a grand narrative of human rights that are tied to nations the liminal space of leaving a nation-state to seek refuge somewhere else exposes a state of being in which no nation-state is kept responsible for the enforcement of an individual’s human rights. How does this affect subjectification?

The asylum process is heavily reliant on the narrative of the person seeking asylum, however, it also scrutinises the narrative from the initial interview and throughout the court hearing. Whether the person is accepted as a refugee by the end of the process or not they will have experienced:

  1. being extracted from their previous nation to refer to them as an individual in the eyes of the court;
  2. being subjectified into categories already existing in the asylum narrative; and
  3. having their identity questioned by national or personal notions of what that identity should be.

Isabel is interested in the reality of going through a process of subjectification in which identities are disputed and asked to be proven throughout that process. And what are the experiences of those going through a process in which the subjectification into an asylum seeker and a refugee supersedes the personal subjectification of the person seeking asylum?

Jen will talk next about her project, which investigates a related issue: ‘The Dignity and Rights of Women and Children Subjected to Modern Slavery in the United Kingdom’.

In recent years, the spotlight has been placed on the accounts of survivors of modern slavery – their tales of slavery and their eventual escape or rescue. As such, scant attention has been placed on what happens after slavery: how survivors go on with their lives and how they reintegrate into society with their rights and dignity intact. Jen’s research will investigate life after modern slavery in the United Kingdom, specifically focusing on women and children and how they attempt to move on with their lives after experiencing the ordeal of modern slavery, including the support available to them to achieve ‘normal’ lives.

Finally, Mavuto’s project comes at modern slavery from the opposite perspective, investigating how restrictions on modern slavery can work to make children more vulnerable to exploitation. His project is entitled ‘Evaluating child labour bans in Malawi’s agriculture’.

The United Nations and International Labour Organisation are promoting children’s rights and fighting against all forms of child labour around the globe through legal frameworks. Being one of the signatories to these greements, the Malawi Government has put in place policies and legal instruments to operationalise their international obligations on children’s rights and committed itself to combat child labour. This study aims at exploring the impact of banning under-18 year olds  from working in the commercial tea and tobacco estates in Malawi on youth and their families’ livelihoods.

This event has now taken place.


Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 28 January 2021, 4-6pm GMT

Professor Sophie White

Department of American Studies

University of Notre Dame, Indiana

Join us on Thursday 28 January 4-6PM GMT for our latest Wilberforce Institute Webinar. In this webinar Sophie White, Professor of American Studies, Concurrent Professor in the Departments of Africana Studies, History, and Gender Studies, and Fellow of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame, will talk about her latest book Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/University of North Carolina Press, 2019)

Voices of the Enslaved draws on an exceptional set of source material about slavery in French America: court cases in which the enslaved themselves testified. It has won no fewer than seven awards to date, including the prestigious Frederick Douglass Award 2020 for the best book published in English on slavery, resistance or abolition.

Professor White is a historian of early America with an interdisciplinary focus on cultural encounters between Europeans, Africans and Native Americans, and a commitment to Atlantic and global research perspectives. She is also the author of Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana (Penn Press/McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 2012), of over 10 articles and essays on slavery and race, is co-editor with Trevor Burnard of Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in British and French America, 1700–1848 (Routledge, 2020), and is completing a digital humanities project on slave testimony as autobiography in collaboration with the Omohundro Institute.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


An Abolitionist’s Diaries: Rethinking William Wilberforce

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 10 December 2020, 4-6PM GMT

Professor John Coffey

University of Leicester

William Wilberforce kept diaries between 1779 and the year of his death, 1833. Altogether, they ran to over a million words, though some volumes are no longer extant – the total word count of the surviving diaries is c. 825,000 words. Most are held in Oxford  at the Bodleian Library, though the largest volume (c.150,000 words) is in Wilberforce House Museum. The abolitionist’s sons reproduced c.100,000 words from the diaries in the 1838 biography of their father, and historians have rarely ventured beyond these extracts to the original manuscripts, written in Wilberforce’s sometimes indecipherable hand. The Wilberforce Diaries Project is preparing the first scholarly edition for Oxford University Press, and in this seminar John Coffey will be introducing the manuscripts and asking how the diaries might reshape our understanding of Wilberforce and British abolitionism.

Professor Coffey’s research has focused on various facets of Anglophone Protestant culture. He has a particular expertise in seventeenth-century Puritanism and the English Revolution and has published widely in this area. His most recent book is Exodus and Liberation: Deliverance Politics from John Calvin to Martin Luther King Jr. (Oxford University Press, 2013).

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


The Yellow Demon of Fever: Fighting Disease in the Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Slave Trade

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 12 November 2020, 4-6PM GMT

Professor Manuel Barcia

Chair of Global History

University of Leeds

Join us on Thursday 12 November 4-6PM GMT for our latest Wilberforce Institute Webinar. In this webinar Professor Manuel Barcia, Chair of Global History at the University of Leeds, will talk about the subject of his new book, The Yellow Demon of Fever: Fighting Disease in the Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Slave Trade. Professor Barcia’s expertise in slavery is wide ranging, from piracy to medical history, and he has published monographs on slave rebellion, the Great African Slave Revolt of 1825 and slave soldiers in the Atlantic World to great critical acclaim. The Yellow Demon of Fever, published earlier this year, is a pathbreaking history of how participants in the slave trade influenced the growth and dissemination of medical knowledge in the nineteenth century.

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


The Alderman Sydney Smith Annual Lecture: Rethinking British Anti-Slavery

Wilberforce Institute Webinar, Thursday 15 October 2020, 4-6PM BST

Professor Catherine Hall

Emerita Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History

University College London

John Oldfield

Professor of Slavery and Emancipation

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

Join us on Thursday 15 October at 4pm for our annual Alderman Sydney Smith Lecture. This year Professor John Oldfield, former Director of the Wilberforce Institute, is joined by Professor Catherine Hall, Emerita Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College London, and principal investigator of the Legacies of British Slave Ownership Project.  Professor Oldfield, a specialist in the history of abolition, will reconsider British Anti-Slavery, and Professor Hall will offer a response. As we draw ever nearer to 2033 and the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean, Professor Oldfield argues that there is a pressing need to re-evaluate British anti-slavery. In his lecture, he will map out some of the challenges facing scholars and practitioners, drawing particular attention to recent historiographical trends in the UK and the USA. ‘Distilling all of this work emphasises the need for a more “integrated” history of British anti-slavery that not only takes into account black agency but also pro-slavery ideology and culture, transatlanticism and the wider world outside Westminster.’

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


Not Made By Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition Webinar

Thursday September 10, 2020

4PM to 6PM BST

At this webinar hosted by the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute, Dr. Richard Huzzey, Reader in Modern British History from Durham University, will chair a discussion about ethical capitalism in the age of abolition.

Dr. Bronwen Everill, the Class of 1973 Lecturer in History and a fellow of Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge, will be talking about her new book, Not Made By Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition, followed by a reply from Professor John Oldfield, Professor of History at the University of Hull and former Director of the Wilberforce Institute, and Professor Suzanne Schwarz, Professor of History at the University of Worcester.

Bronwen’s book looks at how some merchants in Britain, America, and West Africa sought to use consumer power to challenge Atlantic slavery. In the process, these businesses encountered a variety of ethical dilemmas that stemmed from the cross-cultural nature of trade with West Africa, ranging from deciding what kinds of goods could be ethical, to how to detect fraud in ethical trade, to how to pay for goods ethically, to how to use government influence to shape ethical commerce policies. Firms like Macaulay & Babington and Brown & Ives promoted an influential middlebrow economic philosophy that ultimately advocated for a global division of land and labour that would be of most benefit to the ethical consumers, rather than producers. The book places the politics of antislavery firmly in the history of capitalism by linking commercial ethical decisions to larger developments in the political economy of imperialism and nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century.

Please register for Wilberforce Institute Webinar – Not Made By Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition on Sep 10, 2020 4:00 PM BST at:

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to:


Tacky’s Revolt Webinar

On Thursday 23 July 5-7pm, the Wilberforce Institute will host a round table of distinguished international experts on the causes and consequences of Tacky’s Revolt from 1760 in Jamaica.

This revolt was the largest slave revolt in the eighteenth century British empire and one of the most important slave revolts in history. It played an important role in galvanising opposition to slavery in Britain. 

The panel will include:

Professor Vincent Brown (Harvard University), 

Associate Professor Edward Rugemer (Yale University), 

Associate Professor Lissa Bollettino (Framingham State University), 

Assistant Professor Robert Hanserd (Columbia College Chicago),

Professor Trevor Burnard (Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull).

This event has now taken place. To view a recording of the webinar please go to: