Contact Information

Biography & Research Interests

The Persistence of Slavery: An Economic History of Child Trafficking in Nigeria
is #17 out of the top 40 best-selling books in African History.
September 2021, Library Journal

Dr. Robin Chapdelaine's book, The Persistence of Slavery: An Economic History of Child Trafficking in Nigeria, argues that 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, Chapdelaine explores child trafficking, pawning, and marriages in Nigeria’s Bight of Biafra, and the ways in which British colonial authorities and Nigerian 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.


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



Introduction to African Studies:
This course will present inter/multi-disciplinary perspectives on sub-Saharan Africa paying attention to the many factors –society, politics, economics, culture, literature, religion, ecology, among others- that have shaped the region and impact its role in our world today.

Pre-Colonial Africa:
This course examines African history from the development of human civilization to 1800. It is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of the cultures, history, social structures and political organizations of Africa before the arrival of the Europeans. The focus includes, but is not limited to, the following subjects: Ancient African civilizations such as Egypt, Axum, Meroe and Kush; migrations and interactions of various African ethnic groups; state-formation in sub-Saharan Africa; trade in sub-Saharan Africa; and the impact of external factors upon Africa such as the slave trade, Islam and Christianity.

African History:
This course examines some of the various peoples of Africa over the past 500 years, but with an emphasis on the modern era. While the focus will be on cultures and cultural developments, economic conditions and political situations will also be studied.

Modern Africa:
The history of independent Africa is a turbulent one, filled with wars, political upheavals, social disasters and unrest, economic calamities and a smattering of great successes. This course covers a variety of topics in the history of Africa from the independence movements of the post Second World War era to the present. Topics include, but are not limited to the following: the gaining of African independence, Africa during the Cold War, various military, political and social conflicts that plague modern Africa, the role of the United Nations and the African Union in creating political and economic stability in present-day Africa, the successes of various African nations at creating stable and economically viable states, and finally what the future holds for Africa. These topics will be examined through a variety of perspectives such as ethnicity, political, religious, economic and social factors.

Women and Gender Africa:
In this course we will explore scholarship focused on women and gender in Africa in a historical context. As a social construction, gender is negotiated and renegotiated throughout time and space. From the colonial era to today, women's experiences have not only been shaped by their environments, but they have been responsible for shaping their political, economic, and social environments. Examining gendered histories is important because it leads to a better understanding the distribution of rights and responsibilities in society and highlights the ways in which gender, including notions of femininity and masculinity, are not static characteristics.


Shaping of the Modern World:
This survey of world history since 1900 examines major historical events around the globe and explores general themes such as tradition and modernity, war and peace, political revolutions and socio-economic change, the role of values and culture in historical development, and the complex relationship between the individual and society.

History of Human Trafficking in a Global Context:
This course will survey the social, economic, political and cultural conditions that enable human trafficking. From the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to current day human trafficking, issues relating to the illegal transfer of men, women and children throughout the world will be analyzed. During this course students will gain a better understanding of specific terms, such as modern day slavery, child labor, forced labor, smuggling and sex slavery. The material presented will also offer an understanding of how race, class and gender are useful tools by which to understand human trafficking as a global phenomenon.

History of Human Rights from the 19th Century to Present:
World War I spurred a new era of humanitarianism, which ultimately led to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This course covers the history of Human Rights as it developed from early 19TH CENTURY notions of charity to that of TODAY’S inalienable rights. The assigned readings explore how the consequences of war, famine, disease and historical legacies of slavery and colonialism pushed humanitarians to consider others who lived within and outside of their respective nation states. Contemporary Human Rights efforts is examined from a historical perspective, taking into consideration various legal, political, religious and philosophical applications.

History of Children and Childhood:
History of Children and Childhood surveys how notions of ‘children’ and ‘childhood’ expanded alongside the formalization of social science scholarship focused on children. The study of children as historical subjects is necessary to fully understand the complexities of social, cultural, economic, and political histories worldwide. Because health specialists, child advocates, human rights activists, educators, and historians made evident their interest in children’s health programs, access to education, and child labor conditions, this course will examine the social construction of ‘childhood’ in various global contexts . With an emphasis on gender, the assigned texts shows how identity shapes personal and community experiences, how private and public institutions influence what is expected of children and of the childhood experience, and how the intersection of age and gender became a category by which social control was/is enacted.

Honors Seminar in Global Diversity:
Subject matter varies.

Graduate Research Seminar:
Subject matter varies.

Global History of Child Trafficking:
This course surveys the social, economic, and cultural conditions that enabled child trafficking. Beginning in the 15th century, the course material explores the earliest forms of child trafficking, examines children as part of the Atlantic slave trade, current day child trafficking and modern day slavery. Geographical regions include: the Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the United States. A comparative reading of this historical and current day phenomenon provides a comprehensive understanding of how and why children tend to be most vulnerable individuals under certain social and economic conditions.

History of Comparative Slavery:
This course explores slavery as an age old, global institution and interrogates the definition of 'slavery' while taking into consideration other forms of coerced labor. The readings provide an overview of indentured servitude, pawnship, debt labor, domestic slavery and other various forms of slave dealings in various geographical settings, such as Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe.

Transnational Feminism:
In today’s globalized world, students need a critical understanding of the politics of gender in transnational contexts. This course examines the development of feminist thinking and practices internationally.  We  consider women's and feminist movements in various countries around the world, how feminism emerges in particular social, historical, and cultural contexts, how gendered meanings are produced, how similar issues may manifest in these contexts but produce different outcomes, and what specific issues may galvanize women to act for change.  This course will also explore the connections among feminism, colonization and post-colonialism, nationalism, globalization, and analyze the processes by which the agendas of women from the global north and south converge and diverge.


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. January 2021.


(When) Will the Joy Come?: Black Womxn in the Ivory Tower, with Michelle D. Thompson and Abena A. Asare. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press), forthcoming 2023.


With Megan Toomer, "Experiential Learning in Ghana: Decentering the White Voice," Radical Teacher, December, 2021.

"House Girls and House Boys: Domestic Servitude in Southern Nigeria, 1940-2020," in Elisha Dung and Augustine Avwunudiogba (eds.), Human Trafficking: Global History and Global Perspectives,  (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2021).

“‘He remains a second person no matter the age’: Historical and Contemporary Perceptions of Childlessness and Adoption in Nigeria,” Journal of West African History, Vol. 7, no. 1 (August, 2021): 73-100.

"Marriage Certificates and Walker Cards: Nigerian Migrant Labor, Wives and Prostitutes in Colonial Fernando Pó," African Economic History, Vol. 48, no. 2 (Autumn 2020): 1-36. 

"Margaret Belcher and the Calabar Remand Home: 'Saving' Trafficked Children in Colonial Nigeria, 1950s," Bulletin of Ecumenical Theology, Vol. 32 (Summer 2020): 6-37.

"Girl Pawns, Brides and Slaves: Child Trafficking in Southeastern Nigeria, 1920s," in M. Rodet and E. Razy (eds.), Children on the Move in Africa: Past and Present Experiences of Migration, (Suffolk: James Currey, 2016).


With A. Braham and B. Lawrance, "Social Organization, Culture, and Ritual," in Henrice Altink (ed.), Cultural History of Slavery and Human Trafficking, Vol. 5 (London: Bloomsbury Publishing), forthcoming 2023.

With B. Lawrance, "Age, Enslavement, and Trafficking," in Henrice Altink (ed.), Cultural History of Slavery and Human Trafficking, Vol. 5 (London: Bloomsbury Publishing), forthcoming 2023.

"E-motional Landscapes: Marriage and Custody Litigation in Nigeria, 1940s - 1960s." Journal of Migration History, forthcoming 2023.


"Little Voices: The Importance and Limitations of Children's Histories," The American Historical Review, Exchange: Historians and the Problem of Childhood, Vol. 125, Iss. 4, October 2020: 1296-1299.


Benjamin Rubbers and Alessandro Jedlowski, eds., Regimes of Responsibility in Africa: Genealogies, Rationalities and Conflicts (New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2020), African Studies Review, May 2021.
Sandra Rowoldt Shell, Children of Hope: The Odyssey of the Oromo Slaves from Ethiopia and South Africa (Athens, OH:  Ohio University Press, 2018), Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. Vol. 13 no. 1, Winter 2020.
Saheed Aderinto, ed., Children and Childhood in Colonial Nigerian Histories (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), Journal of West African History, Vol. 3, Issue 1, April 2017.


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

  • Severino A. Russo Endowed Faculty Development Fellowship (2020)
  • Paluse Faculty Research Grant (2020)
  • Wimmer Family Foundation Grant, Duquesne University (2016, '18, '19, '20)
  • American Historical Association, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Research Grant (2012)
  • Graduate Fellow, Rutgers University, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis (2007-2008)
  • Honorable Mention for the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowships Doctoral Program, The National Academies (2005)