[New Book] Sailors, Slaves, and Immigrants, by Stanziani

9781137448453We are glad to announce the publication of Sailors, Slaves, and immigrants. Bondage in the Indian Ocean World, 1750-1914, by Alessandro Stanziani (Palgrave McMillan, Sept. 2014)

see on the publisher’s webpage


Slaves, convicts, indentured immigrants, and unfree seamen have traveled the world’s oceans at many times and places throughout human history. Across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, this bondage took divergent forms and exhibited a range of historical dynamics. In spite of this variety, the conventional Atlantic World historical paradigm has largely shaped our understanding of modernity as being defined by exploration and discovery, European dominance, global capitalism, and the transition from slavery to free labor. Not only does this perspective evince a Eurocentric emphasis on the ‘uniqueness’ of the West, but it is increasingly contested even for the Atlantic itself. This provocative study contrasts the romantic conflation of freedom and the sea with the complex labor relationships of seamen, slaves, and immigrants in the Indian Ocean during the long nineteenth century. In the process, it advances a new framework for understanding labor, bondage, and modernization.


1. Colonial Studies, Area Studies, and the Historical Meaning of the Indian Ocean
2. Seamen in France and the French Empire: Heirs to the Galley Slave or Forerunners of the Social Security System?
3. Sailors in the British Empire
4. Slaveries and Emancipation
5. Immigrants and Planters in the Reunion Island
6. From British Servants to Indentured Immigrants: The Case of Mauritius


‘Stanziani’s important study demonstrates that even those nations that struggled against slavery accepted major limits on the freedom of labor. He makes clear that both in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere, on land and sea, most laboring men and women were in some ways bound.’ – Martin Klein, Professor Emeritus of African Studies, University of Toronto, Canada’

This is a highly original, provocative, and powerfully argued book that brings together a number of vibrant and dynamic historiographical debates. Stanziani successfully challenges a number of ideas on sea bound labor that derive from the existing scholarship’s exaggerated focus on the Atlantic Ocean. He convincingly shows that in the world of the Indian Ocean there was no clear passage from slavery to wage labor but rather the coexistence of different forms of bondage, dependence and servitude. A highly welcomed contribution to the burgeoning field of global labor history.’ – Andreas Eckert, Professor and Chair of African History, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany

Publication DateSeptember 2014
FormatsHardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF)
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
SeriesPalgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies

[Call for papers] Indentured Migrant Labor and Indentured Laborers in the Heart of Colonial Empires

Call For Papers

Indentured Migrant Labor and Indentured Laborers in the Heart of Colonial Empires:
State of the field and research perspectives
17th-21st centuries
Bordeaux, May 11-12, 2015

This international conference will be held as part of the 5th Rencontres Atlantiques (Atlantic conference series) organized by the Musée d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux and the International center for Research on Slavery (CIRESC).

As bonded labor, slavery and the slavetrade were being debated, condemned and gradually forbidden by colonial and imperial powers, projects advocating the use of indentured migrant laboremerged. This was meant to take in the colonies free foreign labor who, before leaving their country of origin, had signed a contractwhich would legally oblige them to work for an employer for a fixed number of years. Though strongly inspired by the indenture system put in place in America in the seventeenth century, these projects must be distinguished from the latter system, notably because they would concern almost exclusively non-European populations. The use of this new type of labor –indentured non-European migrants –kept on growing throughout the nineteenth century and lasted until the aftermath of the First World War.

Thus, for more than a century, thousands of workers, men, women and children, left the Asian and African continents as indentured labor for either the American colonies or the former colonies located in the Indian Ocean, or for the territories recently conquered by imperial powers in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
The departure and the arrival of thousands of indentured laborers had a huge impact on the economies of the colonial societies and their social and racial organizations, as well as on the cultures and lives of indigenous peoples, and those of the laborers themselves. These impacts were all the more significant as for many of the latter, temporary migration became permanent. And indeed, these indentured laborers permanently altered life and traditions in the colonies they integrated. The legacy of this peculiar type of migration is still very much present in today’s post-colonial societies.
Compared to the abundant historiography devoted to slavery, the slave trade and the migratory movements of European workers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and despite its being essential to understand colonialism and imperialism, the indenture system has only been marginally studied. However, in recent decades many researchers have studied these migrations and this system of labor. However, most of the research in this field is generally centered on the experience of a specific group of migrants, defined by continental origin, place of departure or final destination. For instance, because of their longevity and their numerical strength, the indenture system put in place in the Indian Ocean and the indentured Indian population received great attention, especially within the British Empire.

This international conference intends to contribute to a reconsideration of the historiography of the indenture system, the latter having been too often fragmented by Empire, colony, or group of indentured laborers. We thus wish to bring together specialists working on different regions, empires or colonies,on different periods and issues, so as to encourage comparative, cross and comprehensive studies on the many questions raised by the indenture system.

The committee especially encourages the submission of proposals with a comparative approach, or articulating different political and/or geographical scales, or placing indentured laborers or their descendants at the center of the research.
Suggested topics for paper proposals: the genealogy of indentured migrant labor, the various rationales explaining the use of such labor; recruitment conditions; links or interconnections between indentured migration and other types of migration, the construction of the legal tools to manage and control these foreign workers but also their descendants, the demographic, economic, social, cultural and political impacts of these migrations and this form of work on the colonialsocieties and their populations, the social and racial reorganizations that may have resulted from these migrations; the migrants’ motivations when indenturing themselves, reactions and/or strategies of resistance in the colonies; indentured laborers’ strategies for integration, the laborers’ circulations in the various colonies and/or empires; the formation of diasporas; the contemporary legacies, the ways in which the indentured system has been remembered and commemorated, and the identity claims of people defining themselves as descendants of indentured migrants.

Submission guidelines

Please send an abstract (300 to 500 words) in English or French, and a one-page CV to: colloquengagisme@gmail.com
No later than December 14, 2014


Nathalie Collain (CNRS/CRPLC/CIRESC), Céline Flory (CNRS/Mondes Américains/CERMA/CIRESC), Sophie Fontan (Musée d’Aquitaine), François Hubert (Musée d’Aquitaine), Katia Kukawka (Musée d’Aquitaine)

Scientific Committee

Antonio de Almeida Mendes (Université de Nantes/CRHIA/CIRESC)
Laurence Brown (Université de Manchester)
Virginie Chaillou (Université de Nantes/CRHIA)
Céline Flory (CNRS/Mondes Américains/CERMA/CIRESC)
François Hubert (Musée d’Aquitaine)
Katia Kukawka (Musée d’Aquitaine)
Jean Moomou (Université des Antilles/AIHP GEODE)
Alessandro Stanziani (CNRS/EHESS/CRH)
Ibrahima Thioub (Université Cheik Anta Diop/CARTE)