Call for Papers: Slavery, Institutions, and Empire: Moving Beyond Microhistory

The call for papers has now closed and this conference is open to participants only

Slavery, Institutions, and Empire: Moving Beyond Microhistory


The past few years have witnessed a wave of new studies that explore the relationships between specific institutions and the colonial past. The institutions encompassed within this burgeoning field include higher education establishments, hospitals, museums, corporations, and country houses.


This new generation of studies has produced a great deal of knowledge regarding the specific institutions in question. Yet, because of the way in which these projects have been conceived and funded, they rarely offer the opportunity to reflect on what these institutional histories might mean in the wider context of British domestic and imperial history.


This conference seeks to move beyond those individual microhistories, using them to shed light on bigger questions. What is the significance of individual research projects beyond that for the institution in question? How can these histories be integrated into the wider field? What can they tell us about the development of empire, Britain, colonialism, etc.?


We invite proposals for individual papers or panels that address larger issues raised by recent and current projects on British institutions and slavery, as well as other colonial connections. Papers may be centred on research projects about a particular institution, but may also range more widely. The issues we seek to explore include, but are not limited to, the following topics:


  • Methodological and theoretical approaches: what can we take from institutional microhistories and apply elsewhere?
  • Comparative histories: does putting individual histories alongside each other tell us something new about institutional development, patterns in imperial expansion, etc.?
  • Histories and Historiographies of Empire: can these new histories shed light, question, or refine ideas about established historiographical concepts like the imperialism of free trade, gentlemanly capitalism, or the new imperial history?
  • Core-and-periphery dynamics and the relationship between colonies and colonizers: did institutions and individuals located at certain places in the core-periphery axis experience empire differently? Were there particular dynamics or relationships that apply to places like Scotland, Wales, or Ireland that do not apply to England?
  • Business and economic history; histories of capitalism; histories of labour
  • Imperial networking and networks
  • Institutions and the construction of knowledge
  • Social and geographic mobility
  • Regional patterns of imperial participation
  • Histories of philanthropy


This day and a half-day conference will allow participants to engage with these issues, new research in the field, and with other researchers. It will conclude with a roundtable discussion.

We will meet on 7 and 8 September 2023 at Brasenose College, Oxford for an in-person conference. Participants should be committed to attend all panels.

We particularly welcome proposals from post-graduate research students and ECRs.

Funding will be available for travel and accommodation costs for speakers. Meals will be provided.

To propose a paper, please send an abstract of up to 250 words and a one-page CV by April 15, 2023, to

To propose a panel, please send to the same address a single document, labelled with the first initial and surname of the contact person (e.g., “SmithJ2023”), by April 15, 2023. The document should contain:

  • Panel title and one-paragraph description of panel topic, including a brief rationale that connects the papers
  • Title and 200-word abstracts for 3-4 papers
  • Email addresses and institutional affiliations (if applicable) for all participants
  • One-page CV for each participant
  • Panel submissions may include a chair/commenter but do not need to do so

Questions about the conference may be directed to Hunter Harris (