Jonathan Connolly Wins 2019 Walter D. Love Prize for Article in Past & Present

by the Past & Present editorial team

Past & Present was delighted to hear that Jonathan Connolly (University of Illinois at Chicago) has been awarded this year’s Walter D. Love Prize, by the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS); for his article “Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation: Free Trade, Race, and Labour in British Public Debate, 1838–1860” which appeared in Issue 238. Thanks to our publisher Oxford University Press the article has been made free to read for a limited time period so that a greater and wider range of people can read his award winning scholarship.

The Walter D. Love Prize is awarded annually by NACBS for the best article or paper of similar length or scope by a North American scholar in the field of British history. In “Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation: Free Trade, Race, and Labour in British Public Debate, 1838–1860” Connolly:

“…reinterprets the political and cultural underpinnings of post-slavery indentured labour migration in the British empire. Focusing on the early period of emancipation, it explains how and why indenture transformed in public debates from an unnatural scandal into a legitimate form of free labor. It argues that new modes of social-scientific analysis associated with race and liberal political economy drove this process of normalization. Connecting ideological with material change, it also argues that debate on indenture was fundamentally linked to broader unresolved questions about the meaning and purpose of emancipation. In this context, it shows that a growing consensus that emancipation had ‘failed’ reshaped debate on indenture even as increasing sugar production in parts of the empire bolstered support for labour migration. The article concludes by showing how supporters of indenture appropriated antislavery language to their own ends, paving the way for significant expansions of the indenture system during the early 1860s without public debate or controversy.”

In the citation explaining their decision to award Connolly the prize the judges stated that:

“Connolly’s article seeks to answer a seemingly simple, yet big and important question: how is it that British public opinion shifted in favor of indentured labor around the middle of the nineteenth century, having just condemned it in the context of emancipation? Drawing on numerous and diverse types of sources, Connolly charts the shifting economic and political concerns, contemporary social-scientific discussions of race and labor, and he does so by placing these discussions within a broader, global framework (engaging questions such as the perceived fate of slavery elsewhere following indenture). It is beautifully argued, wonderfully researched, and draws together distinct trajectories in a clear manner. The result is a piece that bears huge implications for the field of British studies, and far beyond.”

Our congratulations to Jonathan Connolly for the achievement. We are delighted that his scholarship has been recognised in this way.

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