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Centre of African Studies


Each term the inquiry will host a variety of round table discussion and seminars. Please check the site regularly for upcoming events we are hosting or supporting. All events for the 2020-2021 academic year will be held via Zoom. Please contact the Sean Scinta () for event details.


Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Monday 29 March3:00pm-4:00pm


Legacies of Enslavement


The event shares research from the University of Cambridge's in-depth academic study into ways in which it contributed to, benefited from or challenged the Atlantic slave trade and other forms of coerced labour during the colonial era. It will also investigate the extent to which scholarship at the University of Cambridge, an established and flourishing seat of learning before and during the period of Empire, might have reinforced and validated race-based thinking between the 18th and early 20th Century.

This event is chaired by David Lammy MP. David is the Labour Member of Parliament for Tottenham, England, where he was born and raised. After being elected for the seventh time in December 2019, he was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Justice.  He is the author of two books – Out Of The Ashes and Tribes.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, 8th Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies is a distinguished academic, international thought leader, United Nations committee official, and global public activist in the field of social justice and minority empowerment.

He has had widespread global recognition for his academic achievements and leadership expertise, and was knighted by the Government of Barbados. He has received numerous honorary doctorates from around the world and recently received the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace and Freedom Award.

Olivette Otele PhD, FRHistS is a Professor of History of Slavery and Memory of enslavement at the University of Bristol. She is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Historical Society. Her latest books include a monograph, African European: an untold History (Hurst, 2020) and an edited volume, Post-Conflict Memorialization: Missing Memorials, Absent Bodies (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2021)

Sharon Mehari is a 2nd Year Student of History and Spanish, currently serving as the President of the Cambridge African Caribbean Society and has recently joined the Legacies of Enslavement Advisory Group.

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This event will premiere on the University's YouTube channel.

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The Science of Abolition

Friday 28 May, 4:00pm with Eric Herschthal from the University of Utah

In the context of slavery, science is usually associated with slaveholders’ scientific justifications of racism. But abolitionists were equally adept at using scientific ideas to discredit slaveholders. Looking beyond the science of race, The Science of Abolition shows how Black and white scientists and abolitionists drew upon a host of scientific disciplines—from chemistry, botany, and geology, to medicine and technology—to portray slaveholders as the enemies of progress. From the 1770s through the 1860s, scientists and abolitionists in Britain and the United States argued that slavery stood in the way of scientific progress, blinded slaveholders to scientific evidence, and prevented enslavers from adopting labor saving technologies that might eradicate enslaved labor. While historians increasingly highlight slavery’s centrality to the modern world, fueling the rise of capitalism, science, and technology, few have asked where the myth of slavery’s backwardness comes from in the first place. This book contends that by routinely portraying slaveholders as the enemies of science, abolitionists and scientists helped generate that myth.


Award winning author and former MPhil in African Studies student Mary Ononokpono talks about how her work has been inspired by our MPhil programme


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Latest news

Changes to delivery method of MPhil in African Studies 2020-21

27 July 2020

Offer holders are advised to consult our MPhil webpage.