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Slavery and Capitalism: The Williams Thesis for the Twenty-First Century

May 5, 2018
Department of History, University College London

Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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Eric Williams’ seminal Capitalism and Slavery (1944) set the agenda for several generations of scholarship on the abolition of the British slavery complex. Among the first and most influential challenges to the prevalent self-congratulatory narrative of abolition as ‘among the three or four perfectly virtuous acts recorded in the history of nations’, the Williams thesis radically disrupted both British and Caribbean social, cultural, and economic history. In recent years, debates around the validity of various aspects of the Williams thesis have once again been reignited by historians and economists, who have contested both the empirical bases of Williams’ thesis and the broader conclusions he drew from it.

The ‘Slavery and Capitalism’ one-day workshop brings together scholars from across the UK to examine how the Williams thesis still influences the field of slavery studies in the twenty-first century, and how it will continue to influence scholarship in the future. This event, drawing on short, pre-circulated interventions from invited scholars, prioritises collaboration and discussion in developing innovative approaches to the question of slavery and capitalism.

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May 3, 2018, 5:00pm BST

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