Dr. Viola Müller

Postdoctoral Researcher

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Heussallee 18-25
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 / (0)228 / 73 62351 

© V. Müller

Academic Profile

Viola Franziska Müller is a historian whose research interests include global history, slavery, labor coercion, inequality, illegality, im/mobility, race, resistance, and urban history. Viola has studied people who escaped US-American slavery in the nineteenth century and found refuge in the cities of the slaveholding South. Her book Escape to the City: Fugitive Slaves in the Antebellum Urban South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2022) provides an encompassing analysis of their social worlds and labor prospects in the rapidly changing economic, demographic, and political landscape of the urban South. Her new project deals with the labor conditions in cities of the late-nineteenth-century Americas. Taking a transnational comparative approach, it focuses on discriminative legislation, industrialization, urban labor markets, and the social dimensions of capitalism. In the center of Viola’s research are always those men and women who were marginalized and have left few traces in the historical archives.


Ph.D. History, Leiden University, Netherlands

M.A. History, Leiden University, Netherlands

B.A. Latin American Studies and Economics, University of Cologne, Germany

Postdoctoral Researcher at Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn, Germany

Lecturer in Economic and Social History, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow, European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy

Visiting Research Fellow at Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA   

  • Think Tank coordinator, COST Action “Worlds of Related Coercions in Work” (WORCK)
  • Co-coordinator of working group “Labour and Coercion,” European Labour History Network (ELHN)
  • Book Review Editor Journal of Global Slavery
  • Editorial Board member New American Antiquarian
  • Advisory Board member Huarte San Juan: Geografía e Historia
  • Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies, European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy
  • Premium for timely completion of PhD dissertation, Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Fundatie van de Vrijvrouwe van Renswoude te Delft, Netherlands
  • LUSTRA+ Scholarship Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Curatorenfonds Scholarship Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Language Assistant Program, joint scholarship by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) & Instituto Colombiano de Crédito Educativo y Estudios Técnicos en el Exterior (ICETEX)

The COST Action “Worlds of Related Coercions in Work” (WORCK) calls for a radical change of perspective in labor history. It links the stories of work and production with those of violence, expropriation and marginalization. By studying the persistence and transformations of coercion and bondage across gender orders, geographic regions and historical eras, WORCK shifts the focus of labor history: Neither the male-breadwinner model nor the free wage laborer or the capitalist mode of production can form the blueprint for this new history of WORCK. Instead, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of coercion in all work relations throughout history is the pivot of this endeavor.

  • 2023. with Claudia Bernardi, Biljana Stojić and Vilhelm Vilhelmsson (eds.), Moving Workers: Historical Perspectives on Labour, Coercion and Im/mobilities (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2023): Publication date: October 2023. https://www.degruyter.com/document/isbn/9783111136516/html?lang=en

  • 2023. with Anamarija Batista and Corinna Peres (eds.), Coercion and Wage Labour: Exploring Work Relations through History and Art (London: UCL Press, 2023). Publication date: December 2023. https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/223286

  • 2023. “Vluchten uit de Nederlandse slavernij.” In De vluchtelingenrepubliek: Een migratiegeschiedenis van Nederland, edited by David de Boer and Geert Janssen (Amsterdam: Prometheus), 80-94.
  • 2022. "Escape to the City: Fugitive Slaves in the Antebellum Urban South," Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).
  • 2022. “’Employed at the Works of the City’: The Punishment of Runaway Slaves in the Antebellum US South,” Journal of Global Slavery 7:1-2, 153-176.
  • 2022. With Christian De Vito: “Introduction: Punishing the Enslaved in the Americas, 1760s-1880s,” Journal of Global Slavery 7:1-2, 1-18.
  • 2022. With Christian De Vito: Interview with Sidney Chalboub, “The Making of History: Historiography, Institutionalization, and the Trajectory of Punishment in Brazilian Slavery Studies,” Journal of Global Slavery 7:1-2, 225-241.
  • 2022. With Christian De Vito: Special issue “Punishing the Enslaved in the Americas, 1760s-1880s,” Journal of Global Slavery 7:1-2.
  • 2020. “Early Undocumented Workers: Runaway Slaves and African Americans in the Urban South, c. 1830-1860,” Labor History 61:2, 90–106.
  • 2020. “Internal Slave Migrations in the Americas,” Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History, edited by Trevor Burnard. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 2020. “Runaway Slaves in Antebellum Baltimore: An Urban Form of Marronage?,” International Review of Social History 65:28, 169–195.
  • “Illegal but Tolerated: Slave Refugees in Richmond, Virginia, 1800-1860”. In Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America, 1775–1860, edited by Damian A. Pargas (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2018; paperback 2020), 137–167.
  • 2018. “Champeta Music: Between Regional Popularity and National Rejection, Colombia 1970-2000,” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies / Revue canadienne des études latino-américaines et caraïbes 43:1, 79–101.
  • New Books Network Podcast, Interview on book Escape to the City, 2023.
  • News story “How some enslaved Black people stayed in the Southern slaveholding States—and found freedom,” The Conversation, 2023.
  • With David de Boer: Newspaper opinion piece “Excuses voor slavernij? Bestrijd dan ook moderne slavernij actief,” Het Parool, 2020.
  • Expert commentator in documentary Leben in Ketten: Das Ende des transatlantischen Sklavenhandels, ORF2 (Austrian public television), broadcasting December 6, 2019, originally Ebony: The Last Years of the Atlantic Slave Trade, by Moussa Touré (2016).
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