Professor History and Culture of the United States
Damian Alan Pargas is Professor of the History and Culture of North America 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 is Professor of the History and Culture of North America at Leiden University and executive director of the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg.
Damian Pargas is specialized in the history of slavery and its aftermath, especially in North America but also in global contexts. He is the author or editor of seven books and numerous articles on various aspects of slavery. His first monograph, 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 monograph, 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. In 2021 he published a third monograph (also with Cambridge University Press) titled Freedom Seekers: Fugitive Slaves in North America, 1800-1860, which dealt with the experiences of refugees from slavery in the US South, 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 was based on his NWO Vidi project (2015-2020) titled “Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860”. He also published an edited volume on this topic titled Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America (University Press of Florida, 2018).
Damian is also interested in global and comparative perspectives on slavery. He 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). In 2023 he co-edited (with Juliane Schiel) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Slavery throughout History (New York: Palgrave, 2023), a volume that is also available open access.
He is currently working on a new book titled In the Shadows of Slavery: Free Black Citizenship and Democracy in Antebellum America.
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
Grants and awards
- NWO Veni Grant (€200.000), "Newcomers in Chains: Slave Migrants in the Antebellum South" (2011-2013).
- NWO Vidi Grant (€800.000), "Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America" (2015-2020).
- SPL-1 Project Grant (€400.000), "Racial Democracy: Challenges to Civic Democratic Ideals in American History" (2021-2024).
Courses in social and economic history, including courses on the history of North American slavery.
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 Professor of American History. 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 three monographs, an edited volume, and numerous articles on American slavery, slave family life, and slave migration in the 19th century. He has also edited or co-edited three 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, 1800-1860.” Between 2015 and 2020 he was the recipient and supervisor of the NWO Vidi project “Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860." For the period 2021-2024 he has received a grant from the Stichting Praesidium Libertatis-I for the project "Racial Democracy: Challenges to Civic Democratic Ideals in American History," for which he is currently supervising three PhD dissertations.
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.
- 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).
- Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America, 1775-1860 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2018).
- Freedom Seekers: Fugitive Slaves in North America, 1800-1860 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021). *“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.
- Member, International Advisory Board
- Hoofdredacteur Journal of Global Slavery
- Redacteur boekenreeks Studies in Global Slavery