Our PhD

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. 

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Postgraduate study


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the team

Graduates form the vibrant heart of our research community, undertaking cutting-edge scholarship that shapes the direction of slavery studies, past and present. Their work forms the lifeblood of our institute, leading to one of our PhD candidates, Alicia Kidd, being named as one of the Top 100 Corporate Influencers in Modern Slavery. Our students undertake life-changing research on issues relating to historical and contemporary slavery and exploitation. Their work informs the policies and practices of government, the museum sector, and education.

Each doctoral student is supervised by two experienced scholars, including a permanent member of academic staff at the Institute and a leading scholar from a related discipline on the main university campus. This ensures that all our students receive the level of support they need. To-date our graduates have included students whose disciplinary interests include: History, Criminology, Law, Education, Anthropology, Modern Languages, and Heritage Studies.

However we welcome applications from across any disciplinary boundaries. Students are guaranteed their own dedicated desk space within the Institute, to allow them to make maximum use of our on-site research library and its considerable resources. The postgraduates run their own Graduate Seminar Programme, organise internal and external events, and are provided with opportunities to engage with leading scholars from home and abroad. Graduate employability is something we are especially proud of, with our former students securing prestigious roles with Non-Government Organisations, Museums, Universities and other parts of the Education Sector. Anyone interested in a research degree should contact Dr Judith Spicksley in the first instance.

PhD community

James Baker

James Baker

Falling through the net cluster

September 2019 – September 2022
Dr Nicholas Evans and Dr Judith Spicksley 

Anta Brachou

Anta Brachou

The little-researched calamity of people trafficking from Albania to the UK

September 2017 - September 2020
Dr Mick Wilkinson and Dr Margarita Zernova

Jasmine Holding

Jasmine Holding Brown

Falling through the net cluster

September 2019 – September 2022
Dr Lorena Arocha and Dr Judith Spicksley

Saphia Fleury

Saphia Fleury

Falling through the net cluster

September 2019 – September 2022
Dr Elizabeth Faulkner and Professor Dan Parsons


Tom Hammond

Surveillance, migration and identity in Brexit Britain

Sept 2017 - Sept 2020
Dr Michael McCahill and Dr Nicola O'Leary


Loria-Mae Heywood

Law in Books, Legal Process, Law in Action: Child Protection and Child trafficking in Nigeria

September 2016 - August 2019
Professor Gerry Johnstone and Dr Simon Green


Nick Kinsella

The importance of training in supporting front line professionals to contribute to the eradication of Human Trafficking and Contemporary Slavery.

September 2015 to August 2019
Professor John Oldfield and Dr Alison Dunhill

Adiva Lawrence

Adiva Lawrence

The memorialisation of transatlantic slavery in museums of black heritage and the uses of art

September 2017 to September 2020
Professor John Oldfield and Dr Susan Ashley of Northumbria University


Rajib Mustofa

Differential characteristics of marginalization and vulnerability of sexual minority groups to exploitation in South Asian countries: The Transgender community in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan

September 2018 – September 2021
Dr Simon Green, Dr Simone Santorso, Dr Lorena Arocha


Rebecca Nelson

Legacies on Display: Antislavery in Museums

September 2015 - October 2018
Professor John Oldfield and Dr Nicholas J Evans

Charlotte Russell

Charlotte Russell

Contemporary Slavery and The Refugee Child: Human trafficking risks in European refugee camps

October 2018 - October 2022
Dr Simon Green and Dr Elizabeth Faulkner


Chloe Wilson

Investigating the Specific Experiences of Victims of Human Sex Trafficking in England

September 2015 to August 2018
Professor Gerry Johnstone and Dr Simon Green

Sarah Colley web thumbnail

Sarah Colley

Researching the perpetrators of organised child sexual exploitation across the UK

September 2019 to August 2022
Professor Iain Brennan and Dr Lorena Arocha

isabel arcy zelada

Isabel Arce Zelada

Living with the consequences of slavery cluster

September 2020 - September 2023
Dr Simon Green and Dr Lorena Arocha

Mavuto Kambochola Banda cropped

Mavuto Kambochola Banda

Living with the consequences of slavery cluster

September 2020 - September 2023
Dr Elsbeth Robson and Dr Elizabeth Faulkner

Jennifer Nghishitende

Jennifer Nghishitende

Living with the consequences of slavery cluster

September 2020 - September 2023
Professor Helen Johnston and Dr Lorena Arocha

Past PhD students

Edward P. Mair

Indians, Maroons and Estelusti: A Reconsideration of the Role of Reciprocity and Slavery in the Biracial Relations of the Florida Seminoles, 1780-1850

J Porter and J Oldfield

Alicia Sheridan Kidd

The Dynamics of Contemporary Slavery and Conflict

S Green and H Johnston

Rowena Elizabeth Shepherd

The Scale and Extent of Forced Labour in the UK: Can the Existing Legislative and Administrative Arrangements Address the Problem?

M Wilkinson and A R Calverley

Fiona De Hoog Cius

The Complicity of Women in Child Slavery: A Gender Analysis of Haiti and the Restavek System

S M Clisby and K B Bales

Sam North

Contested Pasts, Forgotten Voices: Remembering and Representing Slavery in South Africa

N J Evans and H Dampier

Lauren Darwin

Convict Transportation in the Age of Abolition, 1787-1807

N J Evans and J Oldfield

Zhaleh Bahiyyih Boyd

Contextualizing Slavery: A Framework for Understanding the Relationship between the Enslaver and the Enslaved

M Wilkinson and K B Bales

Angelina Gillian Osborne

Power and Persuasion: the London West India Committee, 1783-1833

D J Hamilton and C Prior

Emmanuel Saboro

Slavery, Memory and Orality: Analysis of Song Texts from Northern Ghana

P D Richardson and J R Oldfield

Julie Claire Walsh

Displaying Families: Exploring the Significance of 'Display' in a City that is Increasingly Culturally Diverse

J D Seymour and M Wilkinson

Ryan James Hanley

Black Writing in Britain, 1770-1830

N Evans and D J Hamilton

May Nkiru Ikeora

Interstate Cooperation and Anti-Human Trafficking: Assessing the Existing Approaches between Nigeria and the United Kingdom

J Quirk and R M Burchill

David Wilkins

Repairing Historical Wrongs: The Role of Education and Commemoration in Overcoming the Legacies of Transatlantic Slavery

J G Johnstone and J Quirk

Stacey Jean Muriel Sommerdyk

Trade and the Merchant Communities of the Loango Coast in the Eighteenth Century

P D Richardson and S D Smith

Angel Smith

An Anatomy of a Slave Society in Transition: Virgin Islands 1807-1864

P D Richardson and D J Hamilton

Mary Constance Wills

The Royal Navy and the Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade, c.1807-1865: Anti-Slavery, Empire and Identity

P D Richardson and D J Hamilton

Bob Mouncer

Dealt with on their Merits?: The Treatment of Asylum Seekers in the UK and France

M M Kilkey and G Craig

Lindsay Doulton

The Royal Navy's Anti-slavery Campaign in the Western Indian Ocean, c. 1860-1890: Race, Empire and Identity

M M Kilkey and G Craig

Ahmed Nyerere Reid

Economic Growth in a Slave Plantation Society: the Case of Jamaica, 1750-1805

P D Richardson and M E Turner

Hannah Jane Lewis

Interrogating Community: Dispersed Refugees in Leeds

G Craig and S Jansen

Craig Barlow

Child Criminal Exploitation: A new systematic model to improve professional assessment, investigation and intervention

S Green and G Johnstone