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Jake Christopher Richards

Department: History

Supervisor: Dr Sujit Sivasundaram

College: Gonville and Caius

AHRC Subject Area: A – History, Thought and Systems of Belief


Biography:

My PhD research is a comparative history of the transition from slavery to emancipation and free labour in the period c. 1839-1870. I am interested in how "liberated Africans" contributed to, and were shaped by, that transition in Cape Town (South Africa), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Rio de Janeiro and Salvador (Brazil). "Liberated Africans" were a new category of freed slave that resulted from Britain's abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, and the subsequent international treaties that stipulated the suppression of various nations' and empires' slave trades. Britain's Navy patrolled the Atlantic to intercept slave ships, which mixed-commission and vice-admiralty courts in port cities then condemned. Local authorities registered the rescued slaves and usually apprenticed them, and, in the eyes of the law and the treaties, this entire process transformed the slaves into liberated Africans.

 

My research investigates the legal and social challenges that these former slaves faced. How much did their legal status and social conditions change as a result of becoming liberated Africans? What claims could they make on or against the state? How were their lives similar to or different from other workers, including slaves, freedpeople and indentured labourers in their places of settlement? By answering these questions, I seek to write a history of the Atlantic world in a century when forced migration, abolition, and British imperial hegemony converged.

 

In 2016, I received a Fulbright scholarship to spend the 2016-2017 academic year as a Visiting Fellow in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University.

 

I have presented early findings from my PhD research at the conference 'Resistance and Empire' (Instituto de Ciências Sociais, University of Lisbon), the Atlantic History Graduate Workshop (Harvard University), the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies, and the conference 'Moralising commerce in a globalising world' (German Historical Institute, London).