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Usable Past

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Capturing lessons from the past to tackle modern-day slavery today

Modern-day slavery is an urgent global problem requiring a multi-faceted approach. We are aiming to help to tackle modern-day slavery by drawing on the successes and failures of earlier abolition movements.

Antislavery Usable Past has created a series of ground-breaking databases that shed new light on cultures of anti-slavery activism.


Lead researchers


Project funded by

Arts & Humanities Research Council

Understanding historical slavery and learning lessons from the past to create positive change for the future is a unique strength of the Wilberforce Institute’s research. The Antislavery Usable Past project is a major example of our expertise in this area. 

We will draw upon recent and longer-standing antislavery movements to highlight and build upon successes and achievements. We’ll deliver a number of different project elements including:

  • educating courts worldwide on slavery law.
  • translating the legal definition of slavery into all the official languages of the United Nations.
  • a major piece of research exploring the role of war and conflict as a catalyst for slavery.
  • researching how the public was mobilised to oppose slavery in the past and uncovering how this could help galvanise change today.
  • highlighting the painful realities of this global issue by creating a collection of stories from slavery survivors.
  • a new digital archive capturing a significant moment in antislavery history.

The Impact

Ultimately this project will inform policy makers and societies around the world and assist them in their fight against modern slavery. It will create effective tools for researchers, teachers, policy makers and the general public to help eradicate slavery and provide practical advice and inspiration for anti-slavery campaigners.

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