Universiteit Leiden

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Damian Pargas

Professor of History and Culture of the United States

Prof.dr. D.A. Pargas
+31 71 527 2736

Fields of interest

  • US history
  • Economic and social history
  • Comparative history
  • North American slavery and emancipation
  • Migration in the Atlantic world
  • American racial and labor relations


Damian Alan Pargas is a professor of American history at Leiden University and executive director of the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg. He is mainly specialized in the history of slavery and its aftermath.
       Damian Alan Pargas has published widely on slavery in the American South. He is especially interested in internal comparisons between various groups of slaves within the southern states. His first book, The Quarters and the Fields: Slave Families in the Non-Cotton South (University Press of Florida, 2010), compared and contrasted slave family life in three distinct regions of the American South. His second book, Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South (Cambridge University Press, 2014), examined the experiences of interstate, local, and urban slave migrants from a comparative perspective. At present he is working on a third book (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press) about slave refugees in North America between 1775 and 1860, including fugitive slaves who left the South altogether (to the North, Canada, and Mexico) as well as runaways who remained within the slave states (illegally passing for free in southern cities, or remaining hidden by other slaves). This study is based on his NWO Vidi project (2015-2020) titled “Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860”. 
       Damian is also interested in global and comparative perspectives on slavery. He recently co-edited (with Felicia Roşu) a 4-volume anthology of slavery studies, titled Critical Readings on Global Slavery (Leiden: Brill, 2018), as well as an edited volume (with Jeff Fynn-Paul) titled Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery (Leiden: Brill, 2018).

Teaching activities

Courses in social and economic history, including courses on the history of North American slavery.

Curriculum vitae

Damian studied social history at Leiden University, earning his MA cum laude in 2004 and his PhD cum laude in 2009. From 2009 to 2013 he was assistant professor of history and American studies at Utrecht University. In August 2013 he returned to Leiden as assistant professor of social and economic history, and in 2017 he was appointed the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Professor of the History and Culture of the US and the Americas. He is also the executive director of the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg, which is formally affiliated with Leiden University.
       Damian is the author of two books and several articles on American slavery, slave family life, and slave migration in the 19th century, as well as two edited volumes on global slavery. In 2011 he was awarded a visiting scholar fellowship by the JFK Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin, and from 2011 to 2014 he held a Veni postdoctoral fellowship from the Dutch Council for Scientific Research (NWO) for his project “Newcomers in Chains: Slave Migrants in the Antebellum South, 1820-1865.” He is the recipient and supervisor of the recently awarded NWO Vidi project “Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860.” Damian is also a board member of the Netherlands American Studies Association, founder of the Leiden Slavery Studies Association, founder and chief editor of the Journal of Global Slavery, and co-editor of the book series Studies in Global Slavery

Key publications

  • The Quarters and the Fields: Slave Families in the Non-Cotton South (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010).
  • Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
  • “Disposing of Human Property: American Slave Families and Forced Separation in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of Family History, vol. 34, nr. 3 (July 2009): 251-74.
  • “The Gathering Storm: Slave Responses to the Threat of Interregional Migration in the Early Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Early American History 2 no. 3 (Fall 2012): 286-315.
  • “In the Fields of a ‘Strange Land’: Enslaved Newcomers and the Adjustment to Cotton Cultivation in the Antebellum South” Slavery & Abolition vol. 34, nr. 4 (Dec. 2013): 564-580.

Professor of History and Culture of the United States

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Institute for History
  • Algemene Geschiedenis

Work address

Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 1.67



  • Southern Historical Association Chair, Membership Committee Europe
  • Brill Hoofdredacteur Journal of Global Slavery
  • Brill Redacteur boekenreeks Studies in Global Slavery
  • Netherlands American Studies Association Bestuurslid

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