The history of the British anti-slavery movement is to be the focus of a new long-term research project which will be amongst the first of its kind. The study aims to tell the story of the complex and nuanced global history of Britain’s attempts to abolish slavery since the eighteenth century. The project has been made possible by the award of a prestigious national prize to historian Dr Ryan Hanley of the University of Exeter.
The prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize is awarded to a researcher who is at an early stage of their career, whose work has had international impact and whose future research career is deemed exceptionally promising. Dr Hanley’s research has mostly focussed on the history of slavery in the British Empire and race and racism in metropolitan mainland Britain. Dr Hanley stated he was “extremely honoured” to receive the prize which historians are only eligible for once every three years, and of whom only a handful are awarded one. The award represents a recognition of his previous research as well as enabling the launch of the new research project.
Dr Hanley stated he was “extremely honoured” to receive the prize which historians are only eligible for once every three years, and of whom only a handful are awarded one.
The unique nature of the new study is owing to the approach it will take and the length of the historical time span it will cover. The study will think through the history of Britain’s anti-slavery movement, not from a celebratory perspective, nor one of condemnation, but will attempt to tell the whole nuanced story, one that Dr Hanley describes as “messy, complicated, characterised by partial successes and unexpected consequences”. The study will cover a massive two hundred and fifty years of history. The grant, worth one hundred thousand pounds, will allow Dr Hanley to focus his efforts on what is a highly promising project and one he describes as “extremely ambitious”.
The research will be carried out at the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the Centre for the Study of International Slavery in Liverpool. The products of the research will be captured in a book called “Unfinished Business – An Incomplete History of British Antislavery”, which is under contract with Oxford University Press and due out in 2032.