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Slave Trade Slavery Abolitions and their Legacies in European Histories and Identities

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Slavery: the European context

Europe's part in slavery and the slave trade was greater than many Europeans would like to believe. A new initiative is demystifying this taboo subject and building bridges with affected nations.

Climate Change and Environment

It is well known that slavery and its consequences impacted the US; Europe was also involved in the practice, however. The continent's past, tied to the slave trade and to the eventual abolition of slavery, is now being investigated. A new EU-funded initiative, 'Slave trade, slavery abolitions and their legacies in European histories and identities' (EURESCL), is clarifying the role of slave trade and slavery in constructing a European identity. It is investigating the political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual, memorial and educational aspects of the subject. This includes the evolution of representations and social practices inherited from racialised transatlantic slave trade and slavery. The project is studying Europe's relationship with the outside world, specifically its former colonies, in this context. Slave trading and slavery are seen as important areas of research as they connect political systems and societies in the different continents as far back as the Middle Ages. In the long term, the project will identify the historic changes occurring in the slaves' countries of origin, and will follow the modern construction of 'race' and its ties to economic wellbeing, measuring the importance of the subject in reference to time periods and locations. EURESCL is also examining the economic exploitation of a slave workforce in a colonial setting. It is examining notions of 'nation' and/or 'state' in this context. The project is currently connecting different historiographies relating to slavery and the slave trade through project seminars so as to explore the results and emerging information. A seminar on 'National silences on slave trade and slavery and their legacies on the migration question' took place in 2008. Another on 'Slavery in the Mediterranean and Continental Europe: areas of slave trade and economic dynamics' was held in Madrid in 2009. An important seminar held in France during the same year explored 'Emancipated slaves and descendants of emancipated slaves in the Atlantic world in the 15th and 19th centuries'. A conference in the same country also probed the 'The effects of Great Britain abolishing slavery on national discourse', bringing to light yet another important angle related to the subject. In its bid to shed light on this neglected aspect of history, EURESCL has developed the first multilingual and multidisciplinary online educational tool related to the slave trade and slavery. Aimed at school teachers and the public, it includes resources for teaching the subject of slavery and the slave trade in the French, Haitian and Senegalese education systems. Moreover, EURESCL set up two knowledge-transfer initiatives that promote the subject. The first was a scientific video festival on 'Heritage and legacies of slavery and the slave trade', being viewed in different locations worldwide. Another was a conference in France entitled '"Black", "negro", "Africans", "Afro-descendants", "descendants of slaves", "immigrants": deconstructing categorisation and examining identities and perceptions from yesterday until today'. The emerging discourse from all these conferences, initiatives and resulting studies has a wide-reaching impact on many disciplines, including sociology, history, psychology, economics and anthropology. It helps tackle important issues that bridge a darker past with a present and forges atonement and understanding among cultures.

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