Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery
Matthew J. Smith is a Professor of Caribbean History and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery. He joins UCL after many years working as a historian of the Caribbean at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. His research is pan-Caribbean in scope with special interest in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories of Haiti and Jamaica. He is the author of Liberty, Fraternity, Exile: Haiti and Jamaica After Emancipation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), a comparative study which explored the post-slavery intersections between the two Caribbean neighbours with a focus on overlapping narratives and shared migration histories. His earlier book, Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict and Political Change, 1934-1957 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009) studied the activities of radical political groups that emerged after the US Occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) and prior to the establishment of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1957. He is co-editor with Diana Paton of the Jamaica Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University Press, 2021). Among his current research projects is a study of the representations and legacies of the Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica in 1865, and a social history of Jamaican popular music.
Chair of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery
Catherine Hall is Emerita Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History.
Since the 1990s my work has focused on the relation between Britain and its empire: Civilising Subjects (2002) explored the entangled yet forgotten connections between Birmingham and Jamaica in the mid C19. Macaulay and Son (2012) focused on the relationship between Zachary Macaulay, a leading abolitionist, and his son Thomas Babington Macaulay whose History of England erased the Caribbean and slavery. Since 2009 I have acted as the Principal Investigator on 2 phases of the ESRC/AHRC project ‘Legacies of British Slave-ownership’ seeking to put slavery back into British history. In 2014 we published the collaborative volume Legacies of British Slave-ownership. My current research centres on Edward Long and his family, leading slave-owners in Jamaica in the C17th and C18th and powerful figures in the defence of the slave trade and slavery.
In 2021 Catherine was awarded the highly prestigious Leverhulme Medal and Prize 2021 by the British Academy. The prize has been awarded in recognition of the impact of her work across modern and contemporary British history, particularly in the fields of class, gender, empire and postcolonial history. Read more about this here on the British Academy website.
Catherine will be delivering the James Ford Special Lecture: Racial capitalism across the black/white Atlantic on Tuesday 16 November 2021 at Oxford University.
The lecture will focus on the system of racial capitalism that operated across the C18th Atlantic. Utilising the life and writings of Edward Long, C18th historian of Jamaica, it will explore the ways in which white colonists attempted to make race – to establish fixed divisions between black and white people on the basis of nature. Since such divisions were not natural it required constant vigilance at every level – economic, political and cultural – to maintain these binaries which were always in danger of slippage. Slavery, as Equiano said, "was a state of war".
Her recent publications include:
‘Rewriting the past: imperial histories of the antislavery nation’, in Tim Barringer and Wayne Modest (eds), Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press, 2018), pp. 263-77.
‘Doing reparatory history: bringing "race" and slavery home’, Race & Class, 60 (1) (2018), pp. 3-21.
‘Gendering Property, Racing Capital’, in John H. Arnold, Jan Ruger and Matthew Hilton (eds), History after Hobsbawm. Writing the past for the twenty-first century Oxford (Oxford University Press, 2017) pp. 17-34.
With Daniel Pick, ‘Thinking about Denial’, History Workshop Journal, 84 (2017), pp. 1-23.
‘Whose Memories? Edward Long and the work of re-remembering’ in Katie Donington, Ryan Hanley and Jessica Moody (eds), Britain’s History and memory of Transatlantic Slavery. Local nuances of a ‘national sin’ (Liverpool University Press, 2016), pp. 129-49.
‘Writing Histories, Making "Race": Slave-owners and their Stories’,Australian Historical Studies 47 (3) (2016), pp. 365-80.
Digital Humanities specialist
Keith is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the History department and is retired but continues to work with the Centre, especially on maintaining the database and website. He was previously Co-director of the Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-ownership 1763-1833 project (2013-2015) and co-founder of the original Legacies of British Slave-ownership project (2009-2012). He was also Acting Director of the Centre from September 2019-May 2020. After many years teaching in other universities, Keith joined the UCL History Department in 2006. He has researched and published particularly on the history of gender, work and politics among the 19th century British working class and co-edited, with Catherine Hall, Race, Nation and Empire: making histories 1750 to the present (2010). He also co-wrote, with Catherine Hall and Jane Rendall, Defining the Victorian Nation (2000) and, with Sonya Rose, 'Citizenship and Empire, 1867-1928' in At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, ed. Catherine Hall and Sonya O. Rose (2006).
Database and website administrator
Jess Hannah is the custodian of the Centre's database and website, and also assists with the Centre’s research and activities relating to slavery’s legacies in Britain and the Caribbean. Jess received a PhD in English Literature from UCL in 2022, and in the same year undertook an archival research fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, during which she focused on Samuel Selvon’s novels The Housing Lark (1965) and Moses Ascending (1975). Jess is also a researcher at the UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation, where her project investigates current academic work across two UCL faculties in relation to the Centre’s topics of focus.
Senior Research Associate
Nick was Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership from 2016-2019. He was Co-director of the Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-ownership 1763-1833 project (2013-2015) and co-founder of the original Legacies of British Slave-ownership project (2009-2012). Prior to joining UCL as a doctoral candidate and then a Teaching Fellow, Nick worked in the City for 25 years. His foundational analysis of the Slave Compensation records was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009 as The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery. The book was awarded the 2009 Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize and was short-listed for the 2011 Frederick Douglass Book Prize. In 2008-9, Nick acted as historical consultant to the Slavers of Harley Street exhibit at the Museum in Docklands.
His other publications include:
'Slave ownership and the British country house: the records of the Slave Compensation Commission as evidence' in Andrew Hann and Madge Dresser (eds.) Slavery and the British Country House (English Heritage, 2013).
'"Dependent on precarious subsistences": Ireland's slave-owners at the time of Emancipation', Britain and the World, 6 (2) (2013), pp. 220–42.
'Capitalism and slave ownership', Small Axe 37 (March 2012).
'The rise of a new planter class? Some countercurrents from British Guiana and Trinidad 1807-1833', Atlantic Studies, 9 (1) (March 2012), pp. 65-83.
'The City of London and slavery: evidence from the first dock companies 1795-1800', Economic History Review, 61 (2) (May 2008) pp. 432-66, jointly awarded the 2009 T. S. Ashton Prize by the Economic History Society.
'"Possessing slaves": ownership, compensation and metropolitan society in Britain at the time of Emancipation 1834-40', History Workshop Journal, 64 (Autumn 2007), pp. 74-102.
'Slave-owners compensation to Sketches of Character subscribers' in Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz (eds.) Art and Emancipation in Jamaica. Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 542-55.
Matthew has been working on the LBS project to transcribe and digitise the slave registers for the parish of Port Royal in Jamaica. Further details of this project are here.
Matthew gained his PhD from the University of Manchester in 2017 for a project examining labour, class, and slavery in 1820s-30s New Orleans. He has published or forthcoming contributions on genealogy, genetics, and identity in History Workshop Journal, Journal of Family History, and New Methods and Approaches to Public History based on his work on the AHRC Double-Helix History project, as well as a forthcoming edited monograph of oral histories of migration and locality in Derby, recorded during the HLF-funded study This is Normanton. As well as having a professional data analysis background, he has worked in software design as an ESRC National Productivity Investment Fund fellow and has written for publications including The Guardian, History Today, and The Conversation. Matt is a co-lead with Katie Belshaw of the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester on the Global Threads project.
Rachel Lang was the administrator and researcher on both the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project (2009-2012), and the Structure and significance of British Caribbean slave-ownership 1763-1833 (2013-2016) and continued as a key member of the team at the LBS Centre until 2022. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA (Hons) in Economic and Social History in 1994. Her work before joining LBS included sub-editing texts for publication and genealogical research.
Katie Donington received a BA in English Literature and History (2005) and an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies (2007) from the University of Leeds. She worked for the Imperial War Museum, London for two years before leaving to pursue her doctoral research. Her PhD, 'The benevolent merchant? George Hibbert and the representation of West Indian mercantile identity', was attached to the first phase of the ESRC funded Legacies of British Slave-ownership project at UCL. She was awarded her doctorate in 2013 and then became a Research Associate on the second phase of the project. Her research examined the structures and significance of British slave-ownership in Jamaica between 1763 and 1833. She is particularly interested in public histories of British slavery and worked in 2013-2014 on an Arts Council funded Share Academy education project alongside Hackney Museum. She is currently a Lecturer in History in the Department of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University. Her study of the Hibbert family, The bonds of family. Slavery, commerce and culture in the British Atlantic world was published by Manchester University Press in November 2019.
Kristy Warren, was one of the post-doctoral Research Associates on the second LBS project. She completed her PhD at the University of Warwick in 2012. Her thesis investigated the extent to which the positions taken by Bermudian politicians and social commentators, concerning the question of independence in the British Overseas Territory, are informed by their lived experiences and understandings of the island’s past. Prior to starting the PhD, she worked at The National Archives in Kew on a Heritage Lottery Funded cataloguing and outreach project entitled Your Caribbean Heritage. She is interested in the ways in which people remember, interpret, and value the past. Kristy is currently a post-doctoral fellow on the Common Cause Research project in the Centre for Research in Race and Rights at the University of Nottingham.
James was awarded his PhD in 2018. His thesis on 'The Dawkins Family in Jamaica and England, 1664-1833' investigated the slave-owning presence of the Dawkins family in Jamaica and Britain. James graduated in History & Politics from De Montfort University (2006) and in Social Science Research Methods from Cardiff University (2010). He has undertaken a series of research based internships in between periods of study working at institutions including the British Youth Council, the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, and the Education and Employers Taskforce. James is currently working as Research Fellow on a project hosted by Nottingham and Nottingham Trent Universities into the historical connections between Nottingham’s universities and transatlantic slavery.
Hannah completed an MA in History at UCL in 2012 and was awarded her PhD in 2017 for a thesis on 'Gender and absentee slave-ownership in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain. Her interests in women slave-owners and relationships of power, gender and property began as an undergraduate at UCL: you can read her UCL undergraduate dissertation written in 2010 on 'Women, slavery compensation and gender relations in the 1830s'. She is currently a Lecturer in History at the University of Southampton.
Ben acted as project administrator on Legacies of British Slave-ownership for a year in 2010. His PhD in the UCL History Department on 'Everyday sex in 1970s Britain' was awarded in 2016. Since then he has undertaken teaching in the History departments at Birmingham University and UCL.
Dr Eric Graham worked with the LBS team on Scottish records of estate ownership in the Caribbean. He has worked extensively on Scottish maritime history and Scotland's involvement with the slave trade and slavery and has written on these subjects as well as acting as researcher and adviser to a number of historical projects in these fields. You can find out more by going to his website, Eric J. Graham.
Siddharth Sing Ahlawat has been a researcher since 2021. His work includes palaeography, prosopography and archival research. He holds an MA in International Relations and an MSc Social Policy and Social Research. Siddharth is currently pursuing an MLitt in Legal and Constitutional Studies with a focus on law and economics.
To contact the research team please use our contact form.