History Research Seminar: Professor Myles Lavan (St Andrews), 'Manumission in the Roman World and the Americas: Freedom and Slavery in Demographic Perspective'

Tuesday 7 May 2024, 4:00pm to 5:30pm


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All Lancaster University (non-partner) students, Postgraduates, Staff, Undergraduates


Registration not required - just turn up

Event Details

Myles Lavan is a Professor in the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews.

Studies of manumission in the ancient world and the Americas have followed a parallel trajectory, as historians of both Rome and Brazil have rejected inherited notions that manumission was 'common' in those societies and insisted that most enslaved people were never freed. The current consensus is that manumission rates were low everywhere.

I will suggest that this consensus risks obscuring significant differences between slave systems, and limits our understanding of what it was like to live under them. I will also suggest that the root of the problem is that we do not yet have a demography of manumission. Yet manumission is obviously a demographic process, in the sense that it operates on a population. It is as if we were still debating the scale of mortality without the conceptual and analytical apparatus of demography (like the concept of Life Expectancy or the Life Table). The paper will sketch what a demography of manumission might look like and show how it could enable us to do better with the limited data we have.

Myles Lavan is Professor in Ancient History at the University of St. Andrews and Editor of the Journal of Roman Studies. He works on citizenship, slavery and imperialism in the Roman empire and on the development of quantitative methods in ancient history. He is the author of Slaves to Rome: Paradigms of Empire in Roman Culture (2013) and co-editor of The uncertain past: probability in ancient history (2023), Roman and local citizenship in the long second century CE (2021) and Cosmopolitanism and Empire: Universal rulers, local elites and cultural integration in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean (2016)

Contact Details

Name Professor James Taylor


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