Slave statue

The Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation


Founded in 2006, the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation is one of the world’s leading research centres working towards the end of labour exploitation and slavery worldwide.

A unique strength of the institute's work is our understanding of historic issues and of how lessons from the past can influence modern-day campaigns and policy making.

The institute is located next door to the Wilberforce House Museum, the birthplace of William Wilberforce in 1759. Wilberforce dedicated most of his life to the abolition of slavery. His struggle led to the passing of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and the Slavery Emancipation Act in 1833. The story behind his fight to eradicate slavery remains as relevant as ever today.

Our challenge

The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are at least 21 million victims of slavery in the world today. That figure includes 13,000 in the UK. We are helping to tackle this global problem head on.

The Wilberforce Institute draws on the work of experts in the humanities, law and social sciences. Our internationally recognised research and practice gives leaders and communities the tools to help shape a better future.

We partner with others to provide a lead in the community and in government - informing policy, practice and public participation at local, national and international levels.

We played a major role in shaping the UK Government's 2015 Modern Slavery Act. As a result of the Act, all UK companies with a turnover of more than £36 million must report annually on the steps they've taken to ensure that modern slavery isn’t occurring in their supply chain.

The Wilberforce Institute is now working with businesses and front-line organisations (including healthcare providers, job centres and the police force) to help check their supply chains for forms of slavery.

Wiseman Khuzwayo PhD Scholarship in Refugees and Human Trafficking

A group of 30 former students has provided more than £65,000 worth of funding for a new PhD research scholarship at the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation.

The scholarship will examine the links between migration, trafficking and contemporary slavery and is inspired by the memory of prominent anti-apartheid activist Wiseman Khuzwayo.

Find out more
Modern-day slavery in the spotlight at first-ever Wilberforce World Freedom Summit
wise books

Life-Changing Research

Learning from the lessons of the past. Inspiring change in the present. Educating the policy-makers of the future. We're very proud to say that our research is making a real difference in the world.

Read more


Studying at the institute

A PhD from the Wilberforce Institute is more than a qualification. Our students conduct life-changing research that helps inform policies and practices around emancipation issues. Their work drives the agenda to help tackle modern-day slavery.

Get involved

WISE exterior

Our services

We're a proactive partner who can provide a lead in the community and in government - informing policy and practice, and promoting public participation. Find out how we could help you.

Read more

John Oldfield MSP_6785

Our People

John Oldfield

Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation.

John’s passion is producing pioneering research into historic slavery: taking lessons learned from the past so we can imagine a different future and tackle the growing issue of modern-day slavery.

John received the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015, in recognition of the institute’s world-leading research into slavery and emancipation issues.

John's profile

Collaborate with us