Dr. Emma Christopher


Scientia Associate Professor Emma Christopher 
Department of Humanities and Languages
The University of New South Wales


profilbild-emma christopher.png
© E. Christopher

Academic Profile

Slavery and its legacies worldwide. 

Two current projects:

‘Slavery, Sugar, Race: South Sea Islander Labourers in Australia’ 

‘Río Yurumanguí, Colombia: Environmental history and African legacies’

In the 1860s, as four centuries of racial, chattel slavery was coming to an end across the Americas, a new labour trade emerged. People from across the Pacific were recruited, tricked, lured, ‘shanghaied’ and kidnapped by labour recruitment vessels for work in the sugar, cotton and copra industries in Queensland, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia and elsewhere. Demand for such labourers spurred imperialism across the Pacific in the 1870s-90s.

While governments and planters rejected all assertions that this was a new form of slavery, this project explores how for the sugar and cotton industries in Queensland and Fiji the Atlantic slave complex was a source of funds and a font of expertise, as money and men moved from the Caribbean and US South to these new frontiers. Most importantly, the Atlantic paradigm was a cultural repertoire for knowledge of what sugar and cotton labourers should be.

The project seeks to put this within the context of the German colonies of Northern New Guinea and Samoa, where the governing nation did not have hundreds of years of history of transatlantic slavery. It interrogates what differences this might have created, including in the lived experiences of those transported, often forcibly, to work in these colonies.

As part of this project, I am creating a database of all known Pacific Labour Trading voyages, initially using 1880-1885 as a case study. Overlaying voyage data with maps of the patrol ships of the British and German navies, as well as maps of long-distance trading routes carried out by Pacific Islanders, will give new insight into the way the trade was lived on individual islands. Eventually it is hoped to add links to images and artefacts that can be attached to specific islands and/or voyages, such as those acquired by Pacific traders Eduard Hernsheim and Johan Cesar Godeffroy.

PhD, University College London

Associate, Australian Human Rights Institute

Board member, Journal of Modern Slavery

Researcher, Anti-Slavery Australia

2018-2021, 2022
Scientia Fellow, University of New South Wales

CH Currey Memorial Fellow, State Library of New South Wales  

Australia Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellow (5 years): ‘Slavery, freedom and colonial development: Robert Bostock and his legacy’ 

Fellow, Gilder Lehman Institute for the Study of Slavery, Rebellion and Abolition, Yale University  

Australian Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow (4 years): ‘Australia's Black Past: the shared history of transatlantic slave trading and convict transportation to Africa and Australia’

Atlantic World Research Fellow, Harvard University, 2004

Australian Research Council Discovery Project: ‘Slavery, Sugar, Race: Australia’s South Sea Islander Labourers’ 

2018-2021, 2022
Scientia Fellowship Grant, University of New South Wales

Australian Institute of Human Rights Grant 

Australian Research Council Discovery Project: ‘Cultural Defences against Slavery and Trafficking’ 

Australia Research Council Discovery Project: ‘Slavery, freedom and colonial development: Robert Bostock and his legacy’ 

Sawyer Mellon Foundation Grant: ‘The Antipodean Laboratory: Humanity, Sovereignty, and Environment in Southern Oceans and Lands, 1700-2009’, led by Professor Iain McCalman  

Australian Research Council Discovery Project: ‘Sierra Leone and Australia: a case of the vanishing twin’ 

Australian Research Council Discovery Project: ‘Australia's Black Past: the shared history of transatlantic slave trading and convict transportation to Africa and Australia’

Public Lecture at the State Library of New South Wales, ‘Legacies of British Slavery in Australia’

Lecture and short film screening, Cuban/Puerto Rican connections, Tulane University, September

Invited plenary session speaker, American Historical Association Annual Conference

‘El Comercio de Esclavos a Cuba: Nuevas Perspectivas de Investigación’ in Havana, Cuba, June

Invited keynote for Vanderbilt University’s Black History Month Commemoration

Invited speaker for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Black History Month Event


Freedom in White and Black: A Lost Story of the Illegal Slave Trade and its Global Legacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2018).

  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2018

A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa and How It Led to the Settlement of Australia (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2010); published also as A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa (London and Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011) and A Merciless Place: The Fate of Britain’s Convicts after the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

  • Kay Daniels Prize, 2011
  • Ernest Scott Prize, 2011
  • Shortlisted for New South Wales Premier’s Prize, 2011
  • Shortlisted for Queensland Premier’s Prize, 2011

Many Middle Passage: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World’, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2007) co-edited with Marcus Rediker & Cassandra Pybus.

Slave ship sailors and their captive cargoes, 1730-1807. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)


Feature Documentary Films

We the Cimarróns (2021)

  • Best Social Justice Film, Cannes World Film Festival, 2022


They Are We (New York: Icarus Films, 2015)

  • Best Documentary, Miami Documentary Festival, 2014
  • Best Educational Documentary, Bare Bones Film and Music Festival, 2014
  • Best Documentary, Bronze Lens, Atlanta, 2014
  • Audience Choice Award, London Latin American Film Festival, 2014
  • United Nations Remembrance of Slavery Day film, 2015
  • Best Film, Sierra Leone Film Awards, 2017
  • Best Foreign Feature Film, San Diego Black Film Festival 2014


Recent Journal Articles

'‘I am not a Kanaka or a N____’: slave pasts and kidnapped men in the Pacific', Australian Journal of Biography and History, vol. 6, June 2022.

'Far More than Money: British West Indian Slavery, Emancipation, and Australia’s Sugar Industry', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 52, 2021, 491-508.

‘Legacies of British Slavery in Australia: John Ewen Davidson, slave-produced wealth, and the Queensland sugar industry’, Journal of Australian Colonial History, vol. 23, 2021, 1-20.

 ‘An Illegitimate Offspring: South Sea Islanders, Queensland Sugar, and the Heirs of the British Atlantic Slave Complex’, History Workshop Journal, vol. 90, 2020, 233-252.

'The saviour and the revolutionary: Afro-Caribbean responses in a Queensland/new Guinea kidnapping case', Slavery and Abolition, vol. 40, 2019, 321 - 340

Wird geladen