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Repairing the legacies of transatlantic slavery

Wilkins, David J.


David J. Wilkins


Joel Quirk

Gerry Johnstone


Recent decades have seen the emergence of calls for financial reparations to African Americans, Caribbean nations and Africa. These claims have sought to utilise legal principles of torts and unjust enrichment to create a causal chain between the history of transatlantic slavery, via colonialism and segregation, to present-day national and international racial inequality. This thesis argues that such conceptualisations of reparations oversimplify the history and legacy of transatlantic slavery, and therefore what is required to repair that history and legacy. The foremost legacy is attitudinal and relational. Modern anti-black racism was developed to justify the institutionalisation of slavery in the New World by Europeans. Racism in turn has, both knowingly and unknowingly, shaped the construction of historical memory and the development of national and international European identity. These identities have in turn shaped the relationships between Europeans and Africans, leading to present-day injustice and racial inequality.

To overcome the socioeconomic legacies of transatlantic slavery, reparation must prioritise relational and attitudinal repair. This thesis utilises the theories of restorative justice, and its implementation in truth and reconciliation processes, to argue that museums and schools, by broadening the history they present to include previously suppressed events and community perspectives, can potentially contribute to relational repair at a national level in Britain and the US, and internationally via projects such as UNESCO’s Slave Route Project. This thesis argues that the history of transatlantic slavery and its legacies of relational harm and socioeconomic inequality cannot be isolated or fully understood without a wider historical and present-day contextualisation of inequalities and prejudices, including class. This thesis, therefore, ties the history and legacy of transatlantic slavery firmly into wider national and international history and underlines how confronting historical injustice and its legacy is vital to the creation of a fair and just future.


Wilkins, D. J. (2013). Repairing the legacies of transatlantic slavery. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Feb 14, 2014
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Law
Public URL
Additional Information Law School, The University of Hull
Award Date Jul 1, 2013


Thesis (5.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2013 Wilkins, David J. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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