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Slave Testimonies in the Abolition Era. European Captives, African Slaves and Ottoman servants in 19th century North Africa

Project description

The abolition of slavery in North Africa as a global social phenomenon

Scholars have mainly attributed the abolition of slavery in North Africa in the 19th century to the end of the imperialist influence, and, to a lesser extent, as part of the Muslim world. What is more, the study of slave communities in North Africa is limited in single national cases instead of offering a global perspective. The EU-funded SlaveVoices project proposes a new approach based on the written testimonies of slaves and their children. It will study slave societies, not in the single states of North Africa, but as a globalised social phenomenon that takes into consideration the role of multiple factors from Africa, Asia and Europe.


SLAVEVOICES has two main groundbreaking scientific goals. First, it aims at fully renewing our approach of the end of slavery, a crucial social transformation in North Africa as a part of the Muslim world. So far historians have explained the abolition and slow vanishing of slavery in this region either as the outcome of European imperialistic interventions or to a lesser extent as resulting from debates among Muslim scholars and leaders who were owning slaves. SLAVEVOICES will instead interpret the end of slavery through the testimonies of the ones who experienced and acted for the end of slavery: namely the testimonies of the slaves and their descendants written in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and European languages.
Second, by studying together –and not apart as is often the case– the various groups of slaves in North Africa hailing from Africa, Europe and Asia, SLAVEVOICES will propose a new way of conceiving and writing the history of North Africa. Instead of studying each historical phenomenon according to each national part of this region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt) as it is has often been the case, SLAVEVOICES will be a concrete attempt at writing a globalized and connected history of modern North Africa. It will explore the reshaping of the connections that groups of slaves built up within North African societies and between this part of the Muslim world and other adjoining societies in Africa, Asia and Europe in the abolition era. SLAVEVOICES will innovate in resituating slave testimonies within a broader history of literacy in North Africa throughout a long nineteenth century, a period in which literacy and written sources underwent major changes in Ottoman and colonial North Africa.
Finally through a website, a book, a play, and videos SLAVEVOICES will bring back the voices, the speeches and emotions of nineteenth century slaves to a present audience as new forms of enslavement and social dependency are resurfacing across the Mediterranean.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 975,00
75341 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 999 975,00

Beneficiaries (1)