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'White slave' children, 1885-1940: a study of the exploitation of children trafficked outside of Britain


Funded PhD


3 years (full-time)

Application deadline:

Wednesday 23 January 2019

About this project

This project seeks to investigate the lives of children trafficked out of Britain from c. 1885 to c.1940. It focuses on a period in which there were several moral panics about ‘white slavery’ in Britain and its link with child sexual exploitation.

Such concerns drove changes in domestic legislation as well as encouraging the development of international agreements designed to outlaw such practices. But the resurgence in concern about child trafficking and exploitation in the present reveals the failures of those agreements despite over a century of ongoing action by governmental and voluntary bodies, at national and international level.

The historical prism is significant, because this period was one in which Europe, as now, was a) fragmented and inward focused as a climate of economic nationalism prevailed; b) subject to high rates of migration, both before and after the First World War; and c) highly dependent on the charity sector to provide care for children.

Moreover, very little scholarly research has been undertaken on trafficked and exploited children as a separate subject group in the early twentieth century. There are biases to unpick too. The focus on women and girls trafficked for ‘immoral purposes’ by the key players ensured that the energy given to the ‘white slave traffic’ or loss of innocence of adolescent girls deflected from recognition of boys who were trafficked and exploited for other than immoral purposes.

The project will then consider exploitation through several themes, notably race, class, sex and gender, with a focus on the causal factors and the impact of national and international responses. 

The University's Postgraduate Training Scheme (PGTS) provides a range of generic and discipline-specific modules to support research students through their programme. 

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The library has an exclusive lounge for postgraduate research students and a dedicated Skills Team to provide a wide range of study and research skills help.

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The Graduate School provides support to postgraduate research students. Offering skills development opportunities and dedicated facilities, the school is here to help you achieve your potential. 

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Research at Hull tackles big challenges and makes an impact on lives globally, every day. Our current research portfolio spans everything from health to habitats, food to flooding and supply chains to slavery. 

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Full-time UK/EU and International PhD Scholarships will include tuition fees and maintenance (£14,777 in 2018/19) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a 1st class undergraduate degree or Masters level research qualification in a relevant discipline. A 2:1 may be considered, if combined with relevant experience.

A knowledge of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European history and law is desirable but not essential.

You will be supervised by historians and contemporary slavery scholars in the Institute. We welcome applicants with a background in social history, law or equivalent experience in a related subject.

Interviews will be held between 7 and 27 February 2019.

Successful applicants will be informed of the award as soon as possible and by 15 March 2019 at the latest.

Studentships will start on 16 September 2019.