14 October 2019

BOOK: Emily HASLAM, The Slave Trade, Abolition and the Long History of International Criminal Law The Recaptive and the Victim (London: Routledge, 2019). ISBN 9781138348899, £92.00

(Source: Routledge)

Routledge is publishing a new book on the slave trade, abolition, and the link with the history of international criminal law.


Modern international criminal law typically traces its origins to the
 20th century Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, excluding the slave trade and abolition.  Yet, as this book shows, the slave trade and abolition resound in international criminal law in multiple ways. Its central focus lies in a close examination of the often-controversial litigation, in the first part of the nineteenth century, arising from British efforts to capture slave ships, much of it before Mixed Commissions.  With archival-based research into this litigation, it explores the legal construction of so-called ‘recaptives’ (slaves found on board captured slave ships). The book argues that, notwithstanding its promise of freedom, the law actually constructed recaptives restrictively. In particular, it focused on questions of intervention rather than recaptives’ rights.  At the same time it shows how a critical reading of the archive reveals that recaptives contributed to litigation in important, but hitherto largely unrecognized, ways. The book is, however, not simply a contribution to the history of international law. Efforts to deliver justice through international criminal law continue to face considerable challenges and raise testing questions about the construction – and alternative construction – of victims. 

By inscribing the recaptive in international criminal legal history, the book offers an original contribution to these contentious issues and a reflection on critical international criminal legal history writing and its accompanying methodological and political choices.


Dr Emily Haslam is Senior Lecturer in International Law at Kent Law School. Her research interests lie in the field of international criminal law, international legal history and civil society. She has extensive experience teaching international law, international criminal law and transnational criminal law.


1 Rethinking International Criminal Legal History;
2 Where It All Began: Prize;
3 The Piracy Analogy and the Slave Trade;
4 Mixed Commissions and the Expansion of Intervention;
5 After Seizure: The Hazards of Recaptivity;
6 Prize, Property and the Economies of Slave Trade Repression;
7 Back to the Present: Recaptives, Victims and Creditors;
8 Conclusion;

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