Institute for the Study of Slavery

Research interests in slavery

Professor John Ashworth (American & Canadian Studies, Emeritus)
Slavery and Capitalism in North America

Dr Sarah Badcock (History)
Prisoners and Forced Labour in late Imperial and early Soviet Russia

Dr Ross Balzaretti (History)
Social History of Early Medieval Europe, including Forced Labour and Servility

Dr Tony Burns (Politics)
Political theorists of slavery from Aristotle to Hegel and the present

Tony Burns is a member of staff in the School of Politics & International Relations and co-director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ), which is based in the School. He is co-editor, with Ben Holland, of a book series entitledStudies in Social and Global Justice, which is published by Rowman & Littlefield International. His research interests lie within the broad area of political theory or the history of political thought. He is working on a book entitled Social Institutions and the Politics of Recognition, Vol. 1, From Plato to Wollstonecraft, Vol. II, From Hegel to the Present.

Dr Jane-Marie Collins (Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies)
Gender and Slavery in Brazil

Professor Catherine Davies (Hispanic & Latin American Studies)
Cuban abolitionist fiction; the Spanish abolitionist Rafael María de Labra.

Dr James Dawkins (History)
My work focuses on tracing and studying the socio-economic, political, and commercial connections between Britain and its former West Indian slave colonies during the 18th and early 19th centuries. I am also engaged in research which identifies and publicly acknowledges the significance of enslaved African labour to the industrial, institutional and cultural development of modern Britain.

Professor Giles Foody (Geography)

My interests lie in remote sensing of the Earth's surface and geographical data analysis.

Professor Stephen Hodkinson (Classics and Archaeology, Emeritus)
Helotage in Ancient Sparta in comparative perspective

Professor Jeremy Lawrance (Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies)
Amerindian enslavement during the Spanish conquest, black slavery in Renaissance Spain

Dr Helen McCabe (Politics)
Forced Marriage Project

In 1956, ‘forced’ and ‘servile’ marriage were included in the list of ‘conventional servitudes’ outlawed by the Supplementary Convention on Slavery and the Slave Trade.  Since 2008, the International Criminal Court has considered ‘forced marriage’ as a separate crime, associated with sexual slavery: the first prosecution for it is currently on-going. Ending forced marriage (along with child and early marriage) is also one of the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 5.3, and thus part of Agenda 2030. Because of this, the International Labour Organisation has counted forced marriage in its measure of slavery across the globe since 2017 – it estimates that 15.4 million people are currently living in forced marriage: Plan International estimates 41,000 girls are forced into marriage every year. The first successful prosecution for forced married in England was brought in May 2018. In the wake of this, there have been calls to prosecute forced marriage-related crimes under the Modern Slavery Act.  The connection between forced marriage and slavery is evidently being made in international legislation, but what that connection is is unclear. In part this is because there are few agreed definitions of forced marriage – and even fewer of the idea of ‘servile marriage’. My research starts from the nuanced and thoughtful analyses of marriage as a form of slavery developed by 19th-century feminists and works to develop a clearer conceptual understanding of forced and servile marriage, and their relation to slavery.

Dr Christina Lee (English)
Old English and Viking Studies

Professor Stuart Marsh (Engineering)
Geospatial Engineering

Professor Stuart Marsh is an expert in the applications of earth observation data to environmental and engineering problems. He has worked in this field for 25 years. In 2016, University of Nottingham colleagues pursuing slavery studies approached him to see whether earth observation could help identify and map slavery. With colleagues from Geography, he undertook some pilot studies and found that, while you cannot map slavery itself, you can see the environmental impact of activities closely associated with the use of slave labour. He has since applied this successfully to a large study mapping the brick belt in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Dr Doug Lee (Classics and Archaeology)
Late Roman History and Slavery 

Professor Vivien Miller (American and Canadian Studies)
Race and Rights

Dr James Roy (Classics and Archaeology, Emeritus)
Slavery in Classical and Hellenistic Greece

Dr Susanne Seymour (Geography)
Material, Social and Aesthetic Connections of British Landed Estates and Plantations in the British Caribbean and Legacies of Slavery in Rural Britain

Professor Judith Still (French)
French & Critical Theory

I have a long-standing interest in slavery and other forms of inequality in the Enlightenment and the C20-C21.

Dr Claire Taylor (History)
Slavery and Serfdom in Medieval/Early Modern Europe

Dr Jessica Wardlaw (Engineering)
Usability Engineering

I am a postdoc with the Rights Lab at University of Nottingham, developing web-based Citizen Science/crowdsourcing projects and approaches to locate features in satellite images associated with activities in which modern slavery is known to be widespread (eg, brick manufacturing in Central Asia). My research is driven to improve estimates of the prevalence of these activities, and validate/train machine learning algorithms to farm satellite imagery for the same features, to support the UN's Sustainable Development Goal of ending modern slavery by 2030. Preliminary projects (supported by an Early Career Researcher Secondment to DigitalGlobe, funded by UoN's Impact Acceleration Account from the Economic and Social Research Council) focused on the brick manufacturing industry in India. This will extend to other activities such as fish farming, charcoal camps and mining, with distinctive signatures in satellite imagery.

Dr Ross Wilson (Liberal Arts)
History and commemoration of the First World War

I research the representation of the past in the present in museums, media and wider society. As part of this research, I worked on the 1807 Commemorated project from 2007 to 2009 at the University of York, which examined the history, memory and legacy of Britain's role in the enslavement of people from Africa. My research analyses the way in which this history has been presented on television, newspapers, exhibitions and public discourse. 

Dr Sascha Auerbach (History)
Modern British and Colonial History

My current research examines the widespread implementation of Indian and Chinese indentured labour in the the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean World. Indentured labour built on the legacy of slavery, but also introduced distinct patterns of social, economic, and cultural organisation in the nineteenth century. I am particularly interested in how indenture, while always encompassing a minority of laborers in any given locale, served as an anchor for colonial systems of labor organisation by granting employers and their allies in governance leverage to control wages and contracts. I also investigate how Chinese and Indian laborers resisted labor control and articulated their own visions of rights and justice. This work is contributing to the "British Identities" Research Priority Area and has been facilitated by support from the Institute for Asia and Pacific Studies (now the Asia Research Institute) and the National University of Singapore. 

Dr Onni Gust (History)
British Empire in the long eighteenth century (c. 1730-1830)

Onni Gust works on Scottish Enlightenment representations of enslaved Africans in North America and Caribbean during the eighteenth century.  

Professor John Beckett (History)
Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British history

The University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington Campus, now the home of Biosciences and the Veterinary School, was built in the early twentieth century as the Midland Agricultural College. Even before the College had opened, in 1916 the War Office took over the buildings and turned the site into a Prisoner of War Camp for captured German military officers, both army and navy (including air force). Sutton Bonington remained a POW camp until it closed in February 1919. After a major cleaning and clearing programme, in October 1919 it was finally opened as the Midland Agricultural College. Were Prisoners of War slaves? My current work on the First World War suggests that POWs were ‘slaves’ according to modern definitions of slavery. Some of the features of their life were:

  • Living in a confined area from which they were not permitted to be released unless accompanied by an armed guard.
  • Living in a compound surrounded in several layers of barbed wire.
  • Under threat of being shot if they tried to escape either by climbing over the wire or cutting their way through it. If spotted by the guards they were allowed one ‘life’, i.e. they could stop attempting to escape, but if they attempted to continue they were to be shot.
  • They were allowed to live in reasonable conditions set out at The Hague in 1907 as officers, with batmen and other assistants. They were relatively well fed and were permitted to buy wines and beer for their meals.
  • They could form social clubs, hold lecture series, play sports and games, perform plays and concerts.
  • They could not work. By definition at the time, officers were gentlemen, and gentlemen did not earn a living. Ordinary soldiers and seamen were allowed to earn a living.
  • By this definition I don’t think they would have considered themselves to be slaves, but the fact that they were not allowed to leave the camp, and were likely to punished, or even killed, if they attempted to escape, suggests that their human rights were compromised.  

Dr Edmund Stewart (Classics and Archaeology)
Ancient Greek History

I am currently developing research into ideas of work in antiquity and specifically ancient skilled labour / professionalism in fifth and fourth century Athens (including skilled servile labour). This project aims to enhance our understanding of the social and economic pressures affecting professionals and thus provide a new perspective from which to interpret the texts and material culture they produced. The impact of skill (techne) on the ancient city has received relatively little attention, yet professionals (such as poets, seers, sculptors, bankers or doctors) formed an important social category within the ancient city and the overall labour market, in addition to legal orders (e.g. servile and free) or economic classes (rich and poor). This research aims to reveal a neglected social category in the ancient city, the professional class, as well as to better understand the workings of the ancient labour market.

Dr Isobel Elstob (Art History)

My research applies analytic models derived from historiography, narratology, and literary theory to explore how the historical past has been visualized by artists working in the 1980s and beyond. I am currently working on my forthcoming monograph Visualizing the Victorians: The Nineteenth Century in Contemporary Art, which examines diverse visual responses to global narratives of the nineteenth century, including imperial expansion, scientific discovery, and female subjugation. I am also interested in how histories of Trans-Atlantic enslavement have been represented by artists in the last two decades. For this strand of my research I have produced a volume chapter on the work of Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lorna Simpson in relation to narratology, and am currently completing a study of how Kara Walker's collages from the early 2000's perform an historiography of American story-making.

Dr Rebecca Senior (Art History)

I am currently a Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Nottingham. My postdoctoral project, titled 'Allegories of Violence: Visual histories of the British Empire in Monumental Sculpture', explores how visual allegory enabled monuments to 'work' as extensions of British imperial projects during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I have published on monuments and allegory in The Sculpture Journal and Church Monuments Society Journal, alongside contemporary art writing journals and have worked on several Arts Council England-funded publications with contemporary artists. Currently I am producing a collaborative publication with artists in Leeds on shifting artistic approaches to monumentality and regional identity. I received my PhD in History of Art from the University of York in 2018. 


Postgraduate research

ISOS welcomes postgraduates wishing to pursue doctoral research on slavery and related issues.

Current PhD students

  • Reshaad Durgahee (Geography)
    Comparative Indentures: Experiences of Indentured Labour and Transnational Identity in Mauritius and Fiji
  • Chiara Ravera (History)
    My research uses notarial documents to learn more about women's lives in the Greek island of Chios under Genoese rule (1346-1566). It includes female slaves as they appear in sale or manumission documents.
  • Colin Green (Theology and Religious Studies)

    Colin's research examinines documentary evidence of tensions in inclusion in first century Christian gatherings. Such communities’ self-conceptualisation as living sacred spaces and their rituals provide the context for this research. The inclusion of slaves and slave owners in these communities and their gatherings provides a focus of actual and imagined relationships. 

  • Sophie Campbell (American Studies)

    Sophie Campbell is doing a thesis exploring how transatlantic African chattel slavery, as an economic system, is represented within the heritage landscapes of England and New England.

  • Bethany Jackson (Geography)

    Bethany's research focuses on industries which are known to use the exploitative practice of contemporary slavery across South Asia, using a variety of remotely sensed satellite imagery. Her work focuses on the brick manufacturing industry across the South Asian 'Brick Belt' and fish-processing camps found in the UNESCO protected Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF), Bangladesh.

    Thesis title: Slavery from Space: An Analysis of Modern Slavery across South Asia using Remotely Sensed Imagery

Institute for the Study of Slavery

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD