Wilberforce Institute


New Director for Wilberforce Institute

Professor Trevor Burnard has joined the University of Hull in the role of Director of the Wilberforce Institute. Professor Burnard’s expertise lies in historical slavery and has combined his research activities with several university leadership roles at Brunel University, University of Sussex, University of Warwick and most recently at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Burnard has received many major research grants, including grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Leverhulme Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Australian Research Council.

He is looking forward immensely to joining the team of researchers at the Wilberforce Institute and in continuing the inspired leadership of the two previous directors, Professor John Oldfield and Professor David Richardson.


I am thrilled to join such a marvellous and important institution and to become part of the University of Hull.

Professor Trevor Burnard

Director of the Wilberforce Institute.

His aim is to develop strategies, similar to those devised by Wilberforce and British abolitionists in the 1820s, to make the public aware of the issue of modern slavery. He'll also use his understanding of how 19th century slavery was addressed and overcome through determined advocacy and scholarly research to show how social change can be effected to stop social and economic ills.

 “I am thrilled to join such a marvellous and important institution and to become part of the University of Hull. We have a busy programme of activities to welcome this new decade and I am very much looking forward to being part of the Wilberforce Institute. I welcome hearing from friends of the Wilberforce Institute at any time.

“I am aware, of course, that I have very big shoes to fill as Director of the Institute. Both David Richardson and latterly John Oldfield have been exemplary directors and wonderful role models for their successor. I would particularly like to thank John for all he has done already to ease my way into this important and challenging job. John decided to step down from his role as Director earlier this year and I'm very pleased that he'll remain part of the team, focusing on several major research projects that are currently underway.”

Professor John Oldfield had been Director since 2013, during which time the Wilberforce Institute has proved influential in helping governments, businesses and communities work towards ending slavery and exploitation around the world.

The Wilberforce Institute received royal recognition when it was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 for its transformational research into slavery.  More recently, the Institute was selected to be one of the partners behind the new national £10m Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery and Human Rights. 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.

The Institute has established the Slavery & Human Trafficking Risk Assessment Service for Business Supply Chains, which has delivered work for clients including Waitrose and Yorkshire Water and has recently launched an online training module.

Professor Oldfield has played an active role in continuing Wilberforce’s legacy in the city, having provided valuable input into the development of the city’s Freedom Festival and had the honour of presenting former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan with the Wilberforce Medallion on behalf of the city of Hull.

After nearly seven years of leadership, Professor Oldfield and his team have developed an impressive legacy and a strong platform from which Professor Burnard can take forward the Institute into the next decade.

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