• Print

Tackling contemporary slavery using historical lessons

Learning lessons from historical antislavery’s failures and successes has allowed Professor Zoe Trodd to inform contemporary antislavery debate, policy and practice.

The issue

There are currently more than 35 million people living in slavery worldwide. Antislavery policy debate and practice at local, national and international levels needs to be informed by past antislavery methods and ideas in order to tackle this global problem.

The research

Zoe’s comprehensive assessment of contemporary slavery and antislavery argues that today’s abolitionists should learn lessons from the first antislavery movement’s failures, successes, contradictions and unfinished work.  For example, she has examined the literary and visual culture of the 21st century global antislavery movement, some of which repeats the paternalism, dehumanisation and sensationalism that limited historical antislavery. In response she has gathered narratives and artwork by formerly enslaved people for a more empowering antislavery culture.

The impact

The research has informed antislavery debate, policy and practice. Zoe has influenced debate at the European Union, presenting her research findings to the Subcommittee on Human Rights. The study assessed the EU’s antislavery efforts so far and recommended new courses of action, including action based on learning from history.

Zoe has also collaborated on this research with antislavery NGOs, to put a usable past at the heart of their campaigns. A new research grant, The Antislavery Usable Past, is now continuing this work.


World-class research at the University of Nottingham

University Park
+44 (0) 115 951 5151

Athena Swan Silver Award