Padraic X. Scanlan

Associate Professor
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 230D, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • History of labour
  • British imperial and colonial history
  • Slavery and emancipation
  • Economic life
  • Industrialisation
  • Governance
  • Labour reform

Full publications list


I am an Associate Professor at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, cross-appointed to the Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies. I am also a Research Associate at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge.

My research focuses on labour, enslaved and free, in Britain and the British empire during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I’ve written two books exploring the history of slavery and emancipation. My most recent book, Slave Empire: How Slavery Made Modern Britain, is a history of the rise and fall of plantation slavery in the British empire, and of the relationship between antislavery, imperial conquest and global capitalism. Slave Empire was published in November 2020 by Robinson Books. My first book, Freedom’s Debtors: British Antislavery in Sierra Leone in the Age of Revolution, was published by Yale University Press in October 2017. I have also published in peer-reviewed journals of historical research; my work has appeared in American Historical Review, History and Anthropology, Journal of British Studies and Past & Present, among other publications. I occasionally write essays and reviews of new books for newspapers and periodicals. I’m writing a book, The Irish Question, on the history of agricultural labour, industrialisation and land use in the British empire told through the lens of the Irish Great Famine. I’m also researching the origins of shift work and debates over the working hour in the nineteenth century. I’m interested in supervising graduate students working on the historical dimensions of industrial relations, broadly defined.

Before coming to the University of Toronto, I 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). I received a BA (Hons.) in History from McGill University and a PhD in History from Princeton University.

Access curriculum vitae online


PhD, Princeton University
BA (Hons), McGill University