What is your field of history?
I am a historian of the African diaspora in the Atlantic world. My current book project focuses on the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. It tells the story through violent conflicts between states, empires, and enslaved Africans, rather than the more-familiar narrative of a human-rights triumph.
Why are you interested in this subject?
I am interested in questions such as: how did states define and apply abolition in different ways at different times? What did and didn’t change for an enslaved person when they got freedom? Answering these questions requires us to connect some large-scale themes, such as empires and enslavement, with the worldviews and options that people in the past had – and that’s even more of a challenge when authorities oppressed those people on grounds of race, gender, class, religion, legal status, etc.
Why is it important to take an international perspective in studying history?
From playing music in Morocco to drinking tea in Britain, every action and place is connected to people and events in other parts of the world. Goods, people, and ideas have crossed boundaries in the past and continue to do so today – it is the patterns, intensities, and scales that change. In that sense, all history is international.
What should a prospective student in International History at the LSE be reading?
Anything and everything that sparks your curiosity!
To see the art, culture, and trade of Saharan Africa from the 1300s to the 1800s, take this virtual tour. Timothy Brook’s Vermeer’s Hat (2008) uses art and trade to trace some global connections in the seventeenth century.
As historians, we are always trying to see the world through the eyes of people who had problems, hopes, and fears different from our own. One great source for doing so is slave narratives. The Early Caribbean Digital Archive and the US Federal Writers' Project on Slave Narratives contain many examples. Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon (republished in 2018) tells the life story of Cudjo Lewis from enslavement in West Africa to slavery and freedom in the American South. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) is a brilliant novel to understand the changes wrought by European colonialism in Africa.
For helpful textbooks in global history, try C. A. Bayly’s The Birth of the Modern World 1780-1914 (2004) and O. A. Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2005).
How can prospective students get in touch with you?
Please email me and I will do my best to answer your question(s). If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try my best to find someone who does!