Call for papers: New Perspectives on War and Slavery, Multi-panel workshop (AHA New Orleans, January 3–6, 2013)

11 January 2012

Organizers: Manuel Barcia, University of Leeds, and Joel Quirk, University of the Witwatersrand

Until relatively recently, the enslavement of captives was widely regarded as a legitimate and progressive substitute for summary execution. This popular formula was espoused by many leading religious authorities and eminent intellectuals, who most commonly framed the enslavement of prisoners taken in violent conflict using the language of a bargain, with prisoners ‘consenting’ to enslavement in order to avoid immediate execution. This project seeks to expand existing knowledge in relation to five enduring themes associated with war and slavery. Firstly, we have the familiar theme of wartime enslavement, and the varied consequences arising from this initial act of violence for different types of captives within the context of existing slave populations and larger social formations. Second, we have enslavement as a source of martial motivation, where enslavement was not limited to an indirect by-product of conflicts fought for other ends, but instead constituted one of the primary reasons for violent conflict in the first place. The main point at issue here is the way in which demands for ‘fresh’ slaves consistently provoked (or otherwise exacerbated) organized violence. Thirdly, we have the status of slaves as a formal military tool, and the political and economic issues surrounding the widespread use of professional slave soldiers. As a growing literature makes clear, slave soldiers were an integral part of political life in many historical settings. Fourthly, we have the use of slaves as an informal military tool, as slaves were also regularly armed as an ad hoc resource of last resort, rather than on a long-term professional basis. In both of these variants we encounter the counterintuitive idea of slaves regularly fighting and dying to promote their masters interests, along with the further complications associated with the status of slaves as perpetrators, rather than victims, of violence. Finally, we have the issue of knowledge transfer, especially of ideas, ideologies and technologies related to warfare. How do prevailing models of warfare and wartime experience shape the behaviour of soldiers who end up becoming slaves in distant lands, such as enslaved Africans in the Americas? To what extent did their previous experiences contribute to later insurgencies and patterns of violence?

We are seeking submissions for at least two linked panels: one focusing upon war and slavery in Africa, and a second focusing upon war and slavery in the Americas, with particular reference to the wartime contributions of enslaved Africans.

Our primary goals are:
i) To explore the political, economic and sociological characteristics and consequences of the enduring relationship between war and slavery, paying particular attention to areas which have not been adequately address within the existing literature.
ii) To assess this relationship from a comparative point of view, with the intention of highlighting to what extent warfare and slavery change over time and across the Atlantic divide.
iii) To understand the impact of anti-slavery ideas upon the enduring relationship between war and slavery.
iv) To provide new empirical research from which to (re)assess different facet of wartime enslavement and its causes and consequences.

Paper proposals may address these issues by looking at a variety of historical cases and time periods in both Africa and the Americas.

Paper proposals deadline: 3rd February 2012

Please send proposals to: and

Proposals guidelines:
• Language: English
• Paper title (max. 20 words)
• Paper Abstract (max. 300 words)
• Biographical paragraph (max. 250 words)
• Correct mailing and e-mail address

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