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International network's new perspective on the slave trade

Posted on 1 December 2011

The transatlantic slave trade represents one of the most brutal chapters in modern history, and is now widely recognised as a crime against humanity. A network co-ordinated by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen brings together an unprecedented range of researchers to examine the history of the transatlantic slave trade and explore its challenging long-term legacies.

The €4.3 million project which includes the University of York, will bring together history, archaeology, sociology, heritage studies and genetics to history of the transatlantic slave trade. By including academic disciplines that are not traditionally associated with slave trade research, such as genetics, the Centre hopes to contribute new data that will add to knowledge of how the slave trade operated and how it impacted on the lives of millions of people.

We will be combining the latest techniques in genetic, proteomics and isotope geoscience to support the historical research undertaken in the project

Professor Matthew Collins

The project led by Professor Tom Gilbert and Dr Hannes Schroeder, of the University of Copenhagen, will expose 15 talented young academics to the latest thinking and research methodologies, to explore one of the most difficult chapters in European history.

Funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme, the network will support thirteen early stage and two experienced researchers who will be based at 10 partner institutions across Europe, and will work with a wide range of associated partners and interests from North America, the Caribbean and West Africa.

Professor Matthew Collins, of the University’s new Palaeo Research Centre, York, says: "The advance of new technologies in biomolecular archaeology has been breathtaking. We will be combining the latest techniques in genetic, proteomics and isotope geoscience to support the historical research undertaken in the project."

Dr Paul Lane, of the University’s Department of Archaeology, added: "The legacies of the slave trade are real and with us today. EUROTAST will challenge a new generation of to confront this legacy and come to terms with its past, present and future."

The project will address the captives’ physical quality of life and the material legacy of the slave trade in Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean.

Dr Schroeder says: "By bringing in experts from these various fields, we hope to contribute new data that will add to our knowledge of how the slave trade operated and how it shaped the population history of an entire continent."

Professor Gilbert adds: "One of the really exciting things about the project is the level of collaboration between European and non-European academics. In particular, we are thrilled to have the participation of specialists from both West Africa and the Caribbean, as one of the main aims of the network is to explore our common history and to investigate the persistent legacies of the slave trade in African and Caribbean communities that were of course so heavily affected by the trade."

A unique feature of EUROTAST is that it aims to disseminate the research widely through school projects, museum exhibitions and media products. Guided by Professor Helen Weinstein, Director of the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past at York, each of the students will be encouraged to document their research and their findings through podcasts and video diaries.

"The scale of this project is ambitious and it is essential that the findings reach a wide audience beyond the walls of academia," Professor Weinstein says. "The use of popular media products will help engage a wide audience but in addition we will develop learning materials for museums and schools in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. This will have a significant impact on the way that this traumatic history is taught and understood across the world."

The project is funded for four years and will run until 2015.

Notes to editors:

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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