Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Damian Pargas

Professor of History and Culture of the United States

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

Fields of interest

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


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 dissertation and 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), examines the experiences of interstate, local, and urban slave migrants from a comparative perspective. At present he is working on a comparative study of 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). For this project he recently received an NWO Vidi grant that will run from 2015 until 2020. Titled “Beacons of Freedom: Slave Refugees in North America, 1800-1860”, the project includes three PhD dissertations and a synthesis on asylum-based migration of enslaved people in the age of “second slavery.” 

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. He is the author of two books and several articles on American slavery, slave family life, and slave migration in the 19th century. 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 Building
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