Robin Chapdelaine

Robin Chapdelaine

Assistant Professor
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Department of History & Center for African Studies

College Hall 615
Phone: 412.396.4759


Ph.D. Women's & Gender History, African History, Rutgers University, 2014
M.A., History, Rutgers University, 2012
Biography & Research Interests

The Persistence of SlaveryDr. Robin Chapdelaine's forthcoming book, The Persistence of Slavery: An Economic History of Child Trafficking in Nigeria, will be available in January 2021. Despite efforts to abolish slavery throughout Africa in the nineteenth century, the coercive labor systems that constitute “modern slavery” have continued to the present day. To understand why, Robin Phylisia Chapdelaine explores child trafficking, pawning, and marriages in Nigeria’s Bight of Biafra, and the ways in which British colonial authorities and Igbo, Ibibio, Efik, and Ijaw populations mobilized children’s labor during the early twentieth century. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources that include oral interviews, British and Nigerian archival materials, newspaper holdings, and missionary and anthropological accounts, Chapdelaine argues that slavery’s endurance can only be understood when we fully examine “the social economy of a child”—the broader commercial, domestic, and reproductive contexts in which children are economic vehicles.

The Persistence of Slavery provides an invaluable investigation into the origins of modern slavery and early efforts to combat it, locating this practice in the political, social, and economic changes that occurred as a result of British colonialism and its lingering effects, which perpetuate child trafficking in Nigeria today.


The Persistence of Slavery: An Economic History of Child Trafficking in Nigeria. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, Childhoods: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Children and Youth Series. Forthcoming, January 2021.

R. Chapdelaine, A. Braham and B. Lawrance, "Social Organization, Culture, and Ritual." In A Cultural History of Slavery and Human Trafficking in the Age of Global Conflict, ed. Henrice Altink. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, Vol. 5. Forthcoming November 2021.

"Marriage Certificates and Walker Cards: Nigerian Migrant Labor, Wives and Prostitutes in Colonial Fernando Pó," African Economic History. Forthcoming, Vol. 48, no. 2, Autumn 2020.

“‘He remains a second person no matter the age’: Historical and Contemporary Perceptions of Childlessness and Adoption in Nigeria.” Journal of West African History. Forthcoming, Vol. 6, no. 2, October 2020.

"Margaret Belcher and the Calabar Remand Home: 'Saving' Trafficked Children in Colonial Nigeria, 1950s," Bulletin of Ecumenical Theology. Vol. 32. Forthcoming Summer 2020.

"Girl Pawns, Brides and Slaves: Child Trafficking in Southeastern Nigeria, 1920s," in Children on the Move in Africa: Past and Present Experiences of Migration, edited by M. Rodet & E. Razy. Oxford, James Currey, May 2016.

Editorial Assistant, The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, volume IV: When Clowns Make Laws for Queens, 1880 to 1887, ed. Ann D. Gordon (Rutgers University Press, 2006).


"Little Voices: The Importance and Limitations of Children's Histories," American Historical Review Exchange: Historians and the Problem of Childhood. Forthcoming October 2020.


Children of Hope: The Odyssey of the Oromo Slaves from Ethiopia and South Africa by Sandra Rowoldt Shell, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter 2020).

Children and Childhood in Colonial Nigerian Histories, ed. Saheed Aderinto, Journal of West African History, Vol. 3, Issue 1, (April 2017).


2017 Fall

"Are You My Brother?: Exploring the Incorporation of Non-biological Children into Family Life in Colonial Nigeria," Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada

"Humanitarian Efforts in Colonial Southeastern Nigeria: What was at Stake?," African Studies Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois

"The League of Nations and the Colonial State: A Campaign Against Child Trafficking in Southeastern Nigeria, 1920s-1930s," Penn State Greater Allegheny Speaker Series: West African Migration, White Oak, Pennsylvania

2017 Summer

"The League of Nations and the Colonial State: A Campaign Against Child Trafficking in Southeastern Nigeria, 1930s," University of Calabar, Nigeria.

2016 Fall

"The Remand Home: Juvenile Labor and Reform in Calabar," at the African Studies Association Annual Meeting, Cambridge, England.

2015 Fall

"The British Social Welfare Office: The Case of Juvenile Labor, Reform, and Nationalism in Colonial Calabar, 1950s," at the African Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, California

"Linking History to Practice: Mapping the History of Nigeria as a Tool to Combat Human Trafficking Today," at The Social Practice of Human Rights Conference, Human Rights Center, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio

2014 Fall

Panel Chair for "Human Rights and Activism in the Colonial Era: Transregional Perspectives;" and presented "Women's and Children's Roles in Human Trafficking: Colonial Southeastern Nigeria," African Studies Association Annual Meeting, Rethinking Violence, Reconstruction and Reconciliation, Indianapolis, Indiana

2014 Spring

"Trafficked Children and Children as Traffickers in Colonial Southeastern Nigeria," The Child in Africa Conference, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

2014 Winter

"Moneylending, Marriage, and Slavery: Pawning Practices in Southeastern Nigeria, 1920s-1930s," American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

2013 Spring

"The League of Nations and the Colonial State: A Campaign Against Child Trafficking in Southeastern Nigeria, 1930s," Indaba Series, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

2012 Summer

"Female Child Dealing During the 1920s: Brides, Pawns or Slaves?" XVIth World Economic History Congress, The Economic History Society of Southern Africa and The Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

2012 Spring

"Children, Labor and Money Lending: Codification of Native Law in an International Context, 1901-1920s" AEGIS Thematic Workshop: Children & Migration in Africa: an Interdisciplinary Perspective, School for Oriental and African Studies, University of London, United Kingdom

2008 Fall

"The Social Economy of Children: Pawning, Trade and the 1929 Women's War, "African Studies Graduate Affiliates, Resonances of Resistance: Young Scholars' New Work in African Studies Conference, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

2008 Spring

"1929 Women's War: Pawnship and the Social Economy of Children," Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis Seminar Series, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

2005 Fall

"1929 Women's War: Representations of Fertility Against the Institution of Pawnship," African Studies Association Annual Meeting, Health, Knowledge, and the Body/Politic in Africa and the African Diaspora, Washington, D.C.


HIST 151: Shaping of the Modern World
HIST 231: Pre-Colonial Africa
HIST 251: African History
HIST 348: History of Human Trafficking
HIST 375: Women and Gender in Africa
HIST 378: Modern Africa: Independence and Issues
HIST 447W/547 History of Human Rights from the 19th Century to the Present
HIST 602: Graduate Research Seminar
IHP 202: Honors Seminar in Global Diversity