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University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute helps Princess Eugenie host slavery delegation


Princess Eugenie has called on the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute to share the anti-slavery lessons of the past as she took an international delegation to visit the grave of William Wilberforce.

Her Royal Highness the Princess Eugenie of York is a passionate advocate of the fight against slavery and organised an event at Westminster Abbey today (July 18), bringing together a top-level delegation including the US Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, John Richmond, and the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton.

To help the delegation draw lessons from the past and understand the scale of the modern slavery plight today, Princess Eugenie requested the help of the director of the Wilberforce Institute, Professor John Oldfield.

The event was staged at Westminster Abbey as slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce was laid to rest in the historic site. Professor Oldfield took Princess Eugenie’s guests on a tour of the anti-slavery memorials in Westminster Abbey, including Wilberforce’s grave, and reflected on Wilberforce’s legacy and his significance for reformers today. 

Professor Oldfield said: “Princess Eugenie is a dedicated campaigner against modern slavery and this is not the first time she has turned to the Wilberforce Institute for support in discussing this challenge.

“It was a privilege to be able to talk about the issue with the US ambassador and the delegation and I hope it will lead to further trans-atlantic and global working to end slavery.

“William Wilberforce is a global figure and he is still highly-regarded in the US today. At the event, guests were very interested to learn about his contribution to the abolitionist movement and understand how we are all walking in his footsteps today.”

Princess Eugenie is co-founder of The Antislavery Collective and a keen advocate for the fight against modern day slavery.


“Princess Eugenie is a dedicated campaigner against modern slavery and this is not the first time she has turned to the Wilberforce Institute for support in discussing this challenge." Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

The Princess is a passionate supporter of emancipation issues having backed anti-slavery campaigns and publicly paying tribute to William Wilberforce MP – the Hull-born slavery abolitionist.

Founded in 2006, the Wilberforce Institute is one of the world’s leading research centres working towards the end of labour exploitation and slavery worldwide. Prime Minister Theresa May has this month put the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute at the heart of a major new £10m centre that aims to combat the “scourge” of modern slavery in the UK.

The Wilberforce Institute is one the partners behind the new Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery and Human Rights, the first of its kind in the world. The Centre aims to transform our understanding of modern slavery and then build a robust legal and policy framework that can focus on eradicating it.

Modern slavery has been described by the Prime Minister as “the great human rights issue of our time” and the world’s governments have agreed to work towards its elimination by 2030.

Dame Sara Thornton is responsible for encouraging good practice in the prevention and detection of modern slavery and the identification of victims in the UK.

Ambassador Richmond has a distinguished career in the global battle for freedom. He co-founded the Human Trafficking Institute that exists to decimate modern slavery at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to use victim-centred and trauma-informed methods to hold traffickers accountable and ensure survivors are treated with respect and care.

His work to combat human trafficking has earned numerous honours, including receiving the David Allred Award for Exceptional Contributions to Civil Rights, twice earning the Department of Homeland Security’s Outstanding Investigative Accomplishments in a Human Trafficking Award.

Professor Oldfield said: “Hull is proud to have been central to an abolition movement once before but tackling slavery remains unfinished business. There is an estimated 13,000 people across Britain trapped in modern day slavery today. Modern slavery cannot begin to be solved until everyone opens their eyes to the extent of the issue.”

The Wilberforce Institute works on a wide range of projects with partners from around the world.

As part of their work, academics at the institute took a major role in shaping the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, which was passed by Parliament in March 2015.

As a result of the Act, all UK companies with a turnover of more than £36m, are required to report annually on the steps they have taken to ensure that modern slavery isn’t taking place within their supply chain. The Wilberforce Institute also offers a ‘risk assessment service’, led by a trained social auditor to help businesses meet the requirements of the law. For further information please visit

It is the latest Royal recognition for the Institute which was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 for it transformational research in this field.


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