This week, the CIRHR welcomes its three newest faculty members, Santiago Campero, Alicia Eads, and Padraic Scanlan. To learn more about Dr. Campero and Dr. Eads, see their companion pieces in this three-part series of introductions.
Before coming to the University of Toronto, Assistant Professor Padraic Scanlan was an Assistant Professor in the Department of International History at the London School of Economics (2015-2019), and a postdoctoral Prize Fellow in Economics, History and Politics at Harvard University (2013-2015). Padraic is cross-appointed to the Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies and is a Research Associate at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge.
Padraic’s research focuses on the histories of slavery and emancipation in Britain and the British empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and more broadly on the relationship between slavery, antislavery and the rise of global industrial capitalism. He is also broadly interested in the social and administrative histories of bureaucrats and bureaucracies, and in the history of everyday economic life.
What research will you be working on at the CIRHR?
I have a few projects that are ticking along at the moment. I'm writing on a book for a general audience on the history of slavery in the British empire. I'm also working on a more deeply archival history of regulation and reform in Britain and the British empire in the 1830s. I'm especially interested in how slave labour and wage labour were connected with one another. That might seem counter-intuitive - after all, slavery seems like the opposite of 'free' labour - but in practice, plantation slavery cast a very long shadow over the lives of workers across the British empire, long after the end of slavery as a system of colonial labour. I'm excited to learn more from my colleagues at CIRHR about the present and the past of the study of employment relations, and to add an historical dimension to the Centre's research.
What first got you interested in histories of slavery and capitalism?
I started in graduate school with a strong interest in the histories of working-class politics in Britain in the late eighteenth century, and especially in how elite writers and politicians tried to turn the energy of working-class reform movements toward conservatism. The British antislavery movement was a prime example - its goals were revolutionary, but the leaders of the movement were committed to a very gradual model of emancipation for enslaved people, and to the preservation of the social order made by slavery, even as they hoped to end slavery. I was especially fascinated by the way these vast transformations in British political economy were experienced by the people who lived through them.
What is your favourite thing to do outside of academia?
I like to cook, and I play a few instruments at a pretty mediocre level, including the banjo. I follow a lot of sports, especially hockey; as an expatriate in the US and the UK for more than a decade, I rekindled my love/hate relationship with my hometown Canadiens. I try to read widely in contemporary fiction and nonfiction as well, and I sometimes review books and write essays for mainstream publications. That said, I spend a lot of time outside of the university corralling my two-year-old son as he tries to run headlong into oncoming traffic.