International Slavery Studies MA

  • Programme duration: Full-time: 12 months   Part-time: 24 months
  • Programme start: September 2023
  • Entry requirements: You should normally have a BA in History or a related discipline (2:1 or above, or international equivalent).
two students looking at a museum exhibit


The University of Liverpool offers one of the few programmes in the world that allows students to study slavery and unfree labour in a wide variety of past and present contexts. The redesigned programme addresses a growing interest, nationally and internationally, in the histories and afterlives of transatlantic slavery, including questions of activism, resistance and protest. The MA also provides for the increasing numbers of students who seek to study modern slavery in terms of its relationship to migration, human rights and other forms of unfree labour.

The programme proposes two pathways in historical and modern slavery. Your seminars, research and tutorials will range broadly, challenging you to analyse historical forms of slavery, to critique modern responses to human trafficking, to evaluate the legacies and memorialisation of slavery in contemporary society, and to apply critical and literary theories to representations of slavery. Drawing expertise from researchers across the institution, students will benefit from our unique relationship with the International Slavery Museum. You will work with the Museum’s staff to study the commemoration and memorialisation of slavery, while the broader MA programme is a flagship activity for the Centre for the Study of International Slavery – a long-standing venture between the Museum and the University. As members of the Centre, students will meet the international speakers in our seminar series and at our conferences, presenting cutting edge research for criticism and debate.

Through its compulsory and optional modules, the MA allows you to study a range of subjects that link the local (reflecting in particular the significant role of Liverpool in the history and afterlives of Atlantic slavery) with the global (introducing slave and unfree labour in a wide range of chronological and geographical contexts). External partners contribute directly to delivery and the MA draws on wider extracurricular opportunities for students to engage with slavery and unfree labour in a range of different professional and international contexts. The MA provides opportunities for students to complement more traditional attention to slavery and abolition by studying also resistance, activism and protest.

This course is the right one for you if you are interested in:

  • Advancing your knowledge and understanding of the field of slavery and unfree labour from historical perspectives but also in the context of the modern world
  • Engaging with the range of disciplines, subject areas and knowledge domains within and beyond the academy that contribute to the field of slavery and unfree labour
  • Developing an up-to-date and critical awareness of leading theoretical approaches, key methodologies and new debates and practices at the forefront of current research in the field
  • Learning to think independently, critically and creatively with complex material and developing an international and interdisciplinary outlook
  • Advancing key skills and professional insights that are as relevant to non-academic employment as to further academic (e.g., PhD) study
  • Enhancing your understanding of the afterlives of Atlantic slavery and the challenges of modern slavery as a subject of academic study – as well as of their place and significance in the wider (professional, political and socio-cultural) world
  • Becoming a co-producer of knowledge relevant to slavery and unfree labour through engagement with external partners.

About the Centre for the Study of International Slavery

The University of Liverpool is home to a broad range of research into different examples of slavery and unfree labour across a variety of historical periods and geographical locations. These range from the classical era through colonial empire to contemporary instances of forced labour or human trafficking; from the study of slavery and slavery-like practices, to the investigation of the impacts and legacies of these practices.

The study of slavery and unfree labour involves a range of disciplines and subject fields. These include history, politics, law, archaeology, sociology, psychology, literature and the arts. Much of this work is associated with the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Research Theme Slavery and Unfree Labour.

The International Slavery MA is the master’s programme counterpart associated with the University of Liverpool’s Centre for the Study of International Slavery. CSIS supports and shares leading research about human enslavement and its legacies. Founded as a partnership between the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool, the Centre works together with other universities and organisations to develop scholarly and public activities related to slavery in its historical and contemporary manifestations.

Liverpool is home to a thriving research community exploring the history of slavery across a number of geographic contexts. The University of Liverpool has a strong record of research in the history of North American and Caribbean slavery. As the former 'capital of the slave trade', Liverpool is an appropriate home to study British Slavery and Abolition. Scholars at the university have worked variously on British anti-slavery, the transatlantic slave economy, and the legacy of emancipation in Britain’s Caribbean colonies.

In relation to modern slavery, the University of Liverpool is at the forefront of research on the political and legal questions surrounding novel forms of labour exploitation, with active connections to the Office of the UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre. Recent years have seen the international community pay increasing attention to the development of new forms of unfree labour. Liverpool scholars are particularly interested in the role of the state, and legislation such as the UK Government’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act, in shaping responses to contemporary forms of human bondage.

Because the Centre is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool, our members have taken a strong interest in the commemoration of slavery and activism relating to Atlantic slavery and its afterlives. Scholars at the University have explored commemoration of slavery in Britain, France, and Germany. CSIS members have also contributed to museum exhibitions at Tate Liverpool, as well as the International Slavery Museum, and other public history ventures.

Why History?

Breadth of expertise

The interests of our staff and PhD students are extremely diverse and span the medieval, early modern and modern periods.

Their work encompasses political, social, cultural, economic, military and diplomatic history, across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

Active seminar programmes, linked to our research centres and MA programmes, enable staff and postgraduates to present their work and listen to eminent visiting speakers.

 These are our on-going seminar series:

  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Eighteenth-Century Worlds
  • Contemporary Cultural and Social
  • History
  • International Slavery
  • Contemporary History and Policy
  • New Research (run by our postgraduate students)

Recent conferences and workshops have addressed ‘Religion in the Spanish Baroque’, ‘Text and Place in Medieval and Early Modern Europe’, ‘Re-thinking Post- Slavery’ and ‘British Nuclear Culture’.

Taught programmes that prepare you for future research

By pursuing our programmes you’ll gain the skills and knowledge you need to carry out further research towards a PhD.

Our MA programmes are taught by research-active experts who bring their knowledge of, and passion for, their subjects into the seminar room.

Teaching takes place in small-group seminars or workshops and through one-to-one tutorials, as we believe this leads to the best collaboration between students and staff.

We offer programmes in:

  • Cultural History
  • Eighteenth-Century Worlds
  • International Slavery Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Twentieth-Century History

You can also pursue an MRes in History or a vocational Masters in Archives and Records Management.

Support and skills training for PhD students

As a postgraduate research student you’ll receive comprehensive skills from the Graduate School, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and History Department.

This will equip you with the research skills you need to successfully complete your PhD.

Our PhD programmes place a strong emphasis on independent research and study, culminating in a 100,000-word dissertation. Two supervisors (normally experts in your chosen field) who will advise and support you through the process.

Our commitment to postgraduate students

We welcome enquiries from all postgraduate students interested in studying here and will give you all the academic, practical and pastoral support we can.

Students have a voice here and are represented on the School Postgraduate Committee. There’s also a dedicated staff – student liaison committee to oversee our MA and PhD programmes.

Postgraduate studentships and bursaries are often available.