The Slave Business and Its Material and Moral Hinterlands in Continental Europe

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Conference at the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool (UK), April 20-22, 2012

The history of transatlantic slavery is one of the most active and fruitful fields of historical research worldwide. As scholarship in this field is increasingly global, it opens up unique possibilities for international collaboration. More particularly, the most recent research which looks beyond the familiar Atlantic axis and the principal slave-trading nations has made clear the scope for new kinds of comparative and trans-regional studies.

The conference revisits a number of key themes relevant to the relationship between slavery (outside Europe) and the dynamics of (European) metropolitan society, giving specific attention to developments in Continental Europe and in particular to the German-speaking regions. These themes include the impact of the slave business on capitalist development and the development of discourses around slavery and abolition in the public sphere. Behind that there lie questions about private conscience – in the first instance about what was known and knowable about the implication of individual economic actors in one of the earliest globalised businesses.

By focusing our attention on regions which were physically and politically distant not only from the mines and plantations of the Americas but also from Europe’s ‘slave capitals’ like Liverpool, London, Nantes and Bordeaux, we hope not only to assemble new data and thereby better understand the material ‘reach’ of transatlantic slavery, but also to address wider questions about the ways in which location/space structures knowledge, values and interest by applying them to the particularly dramatic case of slavery in what are still seen as marginal places. How does the geographical status of ‘hinterland’ relate to conditions of economic and moral/discursive interchange?

The conference begins with a keynote lecture by Catherine Hall, Director of the UCL/ESRC project on British stakeholders in slavery and post-abolition compensation, and ends with a session on memory work in teaching, public art and public and community history.

Confirmed speakers

  • Sabine Broeck (University of Bremen): Bremen and the slave business: Notes on a Hermeneutics of Absence, and a Pedagogy of the Trace
  • Peter Haenger (Basel): Basel and the slave trade: from profiteers to missionaries
  • Dan Hopkins (University of Missouri at Kansas City): Julius von Rohr, an Enlightenment scientist of the plantation Atlantic
  • HMJokinen (Hamburg): The Slave Trader Heinrich Carl Schimmelmann and Cultures of Remembrance in Wandsbek: Vestiges, Myths and Protests
  • Craig Koslofsky (University of Illinois at Urbana): A German Diary of a Slaving Journey in the 1690s
  • Jochen Meissner (Humboldt University Berlin): Southern European and Latin American Responses to British Abolitionism
  • Kwame Nimako (University of Amsterdam): The Peace of Westphalia, Slavery and the Berlin Conference: A Continuum
  • Anne-Sophie Overkamp (Viadrina University, Frankfurt a.d.O): The German backcountry and the Atlantic exchange: The participation of textile merchants from the Wupper valley in the Atlantic trade, 1760-1810
  • Allan Potofsky (University of Paris-Diderot): Paris as Atlantic Hinterland, from the Ancien Régime to the French Revolution
  • Alan Rice (University of Central Lancashire): Chair / comment
  • Barbara Richiger (Cooperaxion – Bern): A Swiss database of slave-trade stakeholders
  • Alexandra Robinson (University of Liverpool): A case study of the Earle family’s Leghorn business 1751 -1808
  • Klaus Weber (Viadrina University, Frankfurt a.d.O): ‘All the Negroes cloathed with German Linen’: Central European Implications with the Atlantic Slave Trade, 15th-19th Centuries

Art Installation

  • HMJokinen, Gordon Uhlmann:  projection posthum: Heaven above Wandsbek – Guinea – St. Croix

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