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Freedom University

Understanding Contemporary Slavery

Are you interested in learning more about modern slavery? This could be for your work, school, further academic study, perhaps you’d like to inform your activism.

You may already know a lot about this complex issue, but would like to fill in some gaps in your understanding or you may have no prior knowledge of it at all. Either way, Understanding Contemporary Slavery is an online open course designed to help you.

Covering both academic research and practical aspects of modern slavery, this course was developed by the University of Nottingham, one of the leading institutions on contemporary slavery research, in collaboration with Freedom United, the world’s largest anti-slavery community.

The course

Understanding Contemporary Slavery covers the following topics:

  • Detailed introduction to different forms of slavery, definitions, perspectives and attempts to measure the incidence of slavery around the world today
  • Looking to the ‘usable past’ – the historical origins of slavery and lessons we can draw from abolitionists’ tactics
  • National solutions for ending slavery covering laws, policies, and community mobilization
  • Survivor voices both in history and their role leading contemporary anti-slavery movements
  • Supply chains, worker mobilization and consumer action as well as exploring links between slavery and the environment.

You can take the course on your own time. We estimate that you’ll need approximately 15-20 hours to complete. 

Prior Knowledge Needed: None

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course, it was easy to understand and very in-depth. I studied at my own pace and I love to do courses like this about today’s important social issues.”

We want Understanding Contemporary Slavery to be available to as many people as possible. We have therefore set the fee at $10 US Dollars, which is payable in several other currencies. This payment to Freedom United will contribute towards the course costs. A certificate will be awarded on completion.

Taken from ‘Unhidden in Plain Sight’ a project reflecting the complex journeys into and out of modern slavery and in response to the challenge of creating images that humanize survivors of a dehumanizing crime. Unhidden in Plain Sight is a collaboration between photographer Jeremy Abrahams and University of Sheffield academics Dr Hannah Lewis and Dr Gwyneth Lonergan.
Credit: Jeremy Abrahams

Explore the historical context of slavery

The UN Sustainable Development Goals now call for an end to slavery by 2030, but how can we achieve this? To end slavery in the future, first we must look to the past. In the course, we will look at the historical context of slavery and antislavery efforts. What antislavery techniques have worked to date? Do past antislavery movements offer any lessons? Is historical antislavery a usable past for today’s efforts? What can historical and contemporary survivors tell us about slavery and abolition?

Monument to the slave trade in Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Credit: Son of Groucha

Background to the course

This course was developed by two directors of The Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, Professor Zoe Trodd and Professor Kevin Bales.

Combining leading academic research but also lived experience of slavery, survivor testimony and tried and tested strategies for ending slavery, including by survivor-led movements, Freedom United curated the course content and added relevant material, under the guidance of its Executive Director Joanna Ewart-James

The Rights Lab was established as a large-scale research platform bringing together leading modern slavery academic experts to provide an advanced research agenda to underpin the ending of slavery.

Professor Zoe Trodd is Director of the Rights Lab. In her academic work, she specializes in strategies to end modern slavery.

Professor Kevin Bales CMG is the Rights Lab’s Research Director, as well as a leading expert on contemporary slavery and one of the pioneers of the modern antislavery movement.

Freedom United is the world’s largest community dedicated to ending human trafficking and modern slavery. The organisation mobilizes a united community to create power for change by making the public stakeholders in the ending modern slavery. It equips millions of supporters with awareness, education & ways to take action that drives real change.

Who is the course for?

The course is particularly relevant for human rights and NGO workers, teachers, students, activists, supply chains professionals, lawyers, and law enforcement professionals. However, all are welcome, and no prior knowledge is necessary.

If you are inspired by the course and want to explore these themes in more depth, the University of Nottingham also offers an MA in Slavery and Liberation.