About the Project

There are more slaves alive today than at any point in human history: nearly 46 million worldwide.

Over the past 20 years, a growing antislavery movement has achieved many successes, including new legislation, a number of prosecutions, changes to company supply-chains, and increased public awareness.


Our Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project translates the successes and failures of historic abolitionism for contemporary use – providing this movement with a usable past of antislavery examples and methods. We bring to the present the important lessons from antislavery movements and policies of the past, and translate those lessons into effective tools for policy makers, civil society, and citizens.

Our interdisciplinary investigation into antislavery legacies, across history and multiple geographies, shows that applied knowledge of the antislavery past offers a way to ‘care for the future’.

Our team of professors, postdoctoral fellows and PhD students from the Universities of Nottingham, Hull and Monash, together with NGO and heritage partners, is unearthing the successes and failures of historical antislavery movements and translating these antislavery lessons into effective tools for contemporary activists and policy makers.

Professor Kevin Bales discusses some of the themes of the Usable Past project:

The Antislavery Usable Past project has a series of related parts:

  • Archives into the Future
  • Artists Against Slavery
  • Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines
  • Antislavery in the Congo Free State / Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Historians Against Slavery
  • Lawyers Against Slavery
  • Open Educational Resources
  • Postgraduate Researcher Network
  • Remembering Slavery 1807-2007 archive
  • Reparations
  • Richmond Contemporary Slave Trail
  • Slavery Today archive
  • Unchosen
  • Using History seminars

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