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Human trafficking, ‘people smuggling’ and clandestine migration are some of the most politically volatile and socially pressing issues in the present day, but they also have a long history. This AHRC-funded project (2016-2019) will contribute significantly to the emerging study of the history of illicit and clandestine migration by examining the history of trafficking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in comparative and global perspective.

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The trafficking of people, and sex trafficking in particular, is of paramount concern in the present day for governments seeking to control migration and international crime; for activists and humanitarian organisations working to improve the rights of women and all workers; and for reformers who are seeking to abolish exploitative prostitution.  The concept of trafficking is far from stable, however. Today, heated debates rage about the best way to define it, to respond to it, and to combat it. Anti-trafficking discourse has been used to help many exploited workers and victims of sexual abuse, but it has also been used to justify increasingly harmful immigration and anti-prostitution regimes.

Human trafficking, ‘people smuggling’ and clandestine migration are some of the most politically volatile and socially pressing issues in the present day, but they also have a long history. This AHRC-funded research project, ‘Trafficking, Smuggling and Illicit Migration in Historical and Gendered Perspective c.1870-2000’, seeks to bring together global, national and local historical perspectives, and to place trafficking in the context of migration, labour, and gender. It seeks to explore how certain people’s movement across borders came to be defined as illicit; how states responded to trafficking at national, imperial, and international levels; and how trafficking was connected both to women’s work and to sexual violence in this period.

We will seek to entangle concepts and experiences of trafficking. Rather than seeking to clarify trafficking and smuggling as normative or legal categories, we will instead question the utility of separating ‘trafficking,’ ‘smuggling’, and ‘illicit migration’ as unique experiences of migration and specific targets for crime or migration control. This research project will explore the global history of trafficking in the modern period, at a time when historical perspective is critically needed to improve understanding of the phenomenon in the present day.

 

Blog

Event: Trafficking, Smuggling and Illicit Migration in International History (Trafficking Past Goes to Sydney!)

  On April 12-13, the Trafficking Past team will be collaborating with Prof. Glenda Sluga and the Laureate Research Programme in International History to convene an international workshop and conference at the University of Sydney, Australia. Entitled ‘Trafficking, Smuggling and Illicit Migration in International History: New Geographic and Scalar Perspectives’, the event will gather specialists …

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS for a special issue of the Journal of Women’s History: ‘Migration, Sex and Intimate Labor, 1850-2000’

The Trafficking Past team is excited to announce our call for abstracts for a Journal of Women’s History Special issue, which Julia Laite and Philippa Hetherington will be guest editing with the support of Trafficking Past Network Members Elisa Camiscioli and Jessica Pliley.  All details are below! Call for Abstracts— “Migration, Sex, and Intimate Labor, 1850-2000” …

(Im)Mobilities Symposium: Reflections and Resource Sharing

On the 13th of October, our PI Julia Laite took part in a day-long symposium, (Im)Mobilties:  Intimate labour in a transnational world, organized by Victoria Haskins (Purai -Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre; University of Newcastle), Rosie Cox (Geography, Birkbeck) and Julia Laite (History, Birkbeck). The symposium  aimed to bring together Birkbeck scholars to share insights …