Legacies of the Slave Past in the Post-Slave Present

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - Friday, October 2, 2015  4:30pm Skylight Room, 9th floor, CUNY Graduate Center; and the Heyman Center Common Room

Several years ago, Catherine Hall, Nick Draper, and Keith McClelland launched a project at University College, London, on the “Legacies of British Slave Ownership.” The project sought to document the impact of slave ownership on the formation of modern Britain. Phase one involved building a searchable, publicly accessible, database containing the identity of all slave-owners in the British Caribbean, Mauritius, and the Cape at the time of slave abolition in 1833. The recently published book, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (2014), is a collaborative work based on this phase. In phase two the researchers are now inquiring into the structure and significance of slave ownership in the British Caribbean between 1763 and 1833.

This is a timely and enormously instructive research project, with wide implications for rethinking the present of past slaving and slave societies. It is timely inasmuch as it converges with the re-emergence of serious scholarly and public discussion (in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States) about the long aftermaths of New World slavery in terms of the question of the repair of that historical injustice. It is instructive partly because it demonstrates the possibility of detailing the scale of value placed on slaves at the time of abolition, but also because, in excavating the pathways of capitalist financial interests in slavery (both state and private) it points to possible ways of articulating a contemporary counter-veiling reparatory claim—a material claim about justice for the descendants of the enslaved.

This event is free and open to the public -- seats are first come, first served -- and will take place over two days. The first October 1 afternoon discussion with Catherine Hall will take place at the Skylight Room, 9th floor, of CUNY Graduate Center -- directions here. The October 2 one-day symposium will take place at the Heyman Center Common Room, Second Floor -- directions here. (Please note the location change of the October 2 symposium, which was previously to be held in the Held Lecture Hall, Barnard College.)


  • Sven Beckert

    Laird Bell Professor of History

    Harvard University

  • Herman Bennett

    Professor of History

    Graduate Center, City University of New York

  • Nick Draper

    Research Associate

    University College, London

  • Richard Drayton

    Rhodes Professor of Imperial History

    King's College London

  • Catherine Hall

    Emerita Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History

    University College London

  • Natasha Lightfoot

    Assistant Professor of History

    Columbia University

  • Jennifer Morgan

    Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History

    New York University

  • Melanie Newton

    Associate Professor

    University of Toronto

  • Donald Robotham

    Professor of Anthropology

    City University of New York, Graduate Center

  • David Scott

    Professor of Anthropology

    Columbia University

  • Kathleen Wilson

    Professor of History

    State University of New York, Stony Brook


By Semester