Professor Sean Kelley

School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies
Professor Sean Kelley
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 874194

  • Location

    5B.127, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Friday, 10AM-12noon



I am a historian of New World slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. My most recent book, American Slavers: Merchants, Mariners, and the Transatlantic Commerce in Captives, 1644-1865 (Yale University Press, 2023), examines American involvement in the transatlantic slave trade over two centuries. I have been involved in the Freedom Narratives Project, a collaborative effort by historians on four continents to collect, transcribe, and publish the autobiographical testimonies of Africans from the era of the slave trade. I was also the UK Principal Investigator for the Documenting Africans in Transatlantic Slavery (DATAS) Project, funded by the NWO and ESRC, which brought together scholars from four continents to recover materials on enslaved Africans and to build a biographical database. I welcome inquiries from prospective M.A. and Ph.D. students who are interested in studying Atlantic slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, and early American history.


  • Ph.D. University of Texas

Research and professional activities

Research interests

New World slavery

Open to supervise

The transatlantic slave trade

Open to supervise

Africans in the Americas

Open to supervise

Transnational mercantile networks and connections

Open to supervise

Maritime history

Open to supervise

Testimony, autobiography, and narrative in African and Atlantic history

Open to supervise

Global and transnational approaches to history

Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Modern Revolutions in Science, Politics, and Culture (CS101)

  • Ways of Knowing (CS112)

  • Early Modern Europe in Global Context: Encounters, Exchanges, and Exploitation (HR107)

  • Revolutions in History, 1776-1919: How to Change the World (HR176)

  • Resistance and Rebellion in the World of Atlantic Slavery (HR229)

  • History Works: Career Portfolio (HR510)

  • Rethinking History: Approaches, Theories and Concepts (HR924)

Previous supervision

Randa Sellali
Randa Sellali
Thesis title: Slavery in Hollywood: Representation and Reception.
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 21/9/2022
Jake Painter
Jake Painter
Thesis title: Anglican Missionaries in the British Carribean, 1822-1833
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Master of Arts (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 17/3/2022
Simon Thomas Sherratt
Simon Thomas Sherratt
Thesis title: Objections to the British Funding-System and the National Debt 1793-1821: A New Perspective
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 10/1/2022


Journal articles (12)

Kelley, SM. and Lovejoy, PE., (2023). Oldendorp’s “Amina”: Ethnonyms, History, and Identity in the African Diaspora. Journal of Global Slavery. 8 (2-3), 303-330

Kelley, S., (2021). Massacre at Portudal?: Reexamining the Rainbow, Boston’s First Transatlantic Slave Voyage, 1644-45. Historical Journal of Massachusetts. 42 (1), 82-109

Kelley, S., (2020). Enslavement in Upper Guinea during the Era of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: Biographical Perspectives. African Economic History. 48 (1), 46-73

Kelley, SM., (2019). New World Slave Traders and the Problem of Trade Goods: Brazil, Barbados, Cuba, and North America in Comparative Perspective. English Historical Review. 134 (567), 302-333

Kelley, SM., (2019). DB or not DB: Writing the history of the slave trade to North America in the era of the database. History Compass. 17 (5)

Kelley, SM., (2018). American Rum, African Consumers, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. African Economic History. 46 (2), 1-29

Kelley, SM. and Lovejoy, HB., (2016). The Origins of the African-Born Population of Antebellum Texas: A Research Note. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 120 (2), 216-232

Kelley, SM., (2016). Recovering the Stolen Histories of American Slaves. Zocalo Public Square

Kelley, S., (2013). Scrambling for Slaves: Captive Sales in Colonial South Carolina. Slavery & Abolition. 34 (1), 1-21

Kelley, S., (2008). Blackbirders and Bozales: African-born slaves on the lower Brazos river of Texas in the nineteenth century. Civil War History. 54 (4), 406-423

Kelley, S., (2007). A Texas Peasantry? Black Smallholders in the Texas Sugar Bowl, 1865–1890. Slavery & Abolition. 28 (2), 193-209

Kelley, S., (2004). "Mexico in His Head": Slavery and the Texas-Mexico Border, 1810-1860. Journal of Social History. 37 (3), 709-723

Books (3)

Kelley, SM., (2023). American Slavers: Merchants, Mariners, and the Transatlantic Commerce in Captives, 1644-1865. Yale University Press. 0300263597. 9780300263596

Kelley, SM., (2016). The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey Into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina. University of North Carolina Press. 1469627698. 9781469627687

Kelley, SM., (2010). Los Brazos de Dios: A plantation society in the Texas borderlands, 1821-1865. 9780807136874

Book chapters (7)

Kelley, S., The Bunce Island Attack of 1728 and the Transformation of the Sierra Leone Estuary. In: Sierra Leone: The Making of a British Colony in the Atlantic World. Editors: Lovejoy, P. and Schwarz, S.,

Kelley, S., A Slaving Port?: The Captive and Conventional Trades in Newport, Rhode Island, 1768-1775. In: Routledge History of the Modern Maritime World. Editors: Morgan, K., . Routledge

Kelley, S., (2022). Middle and Final Passages in the Atlantic Slave Trade. In: Oxford Research Encyclopedia in American History. Editors: Butler, J., . Oxford University Press

Kelley, S., (2019). Precedents: The 'Captured Negroes' of Tortola, 1807-1822. In: Liberated Africans and the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1807-1896. Editors: Anderson, R. and Lovejoy, HB., . University of Rochester Press

Kelley, S., (2019). Twelve Years a Slave and the ‘Unthinkability’ of Enslaved Autobiography. In: Biography and History in Film. Editors: Freeman, T. and Smith, D., . Palgrave. 171- 189. 978-3-319-89407-2

Kelley, SM., (2015). The Dirty Business of Panyarring and Palaver: Slave Trading on the Upper Guinea Coast in the Eighteenth Century. In: Slavery, Abolition and the Transition to Colonialism in Sierra Leone. Editors: Lovejoy, P., . Africa World Press. 89- 108. 1592219837. 9781592219834

Kelley, SM., (2011). Slavery and the Texas Border. In: Major Problems in the History of North American Borderlands: Documents and Essays. Editors: H�m�l�inen, P. and Johnson, BH., . Wadsworth. 321- 329. 978-0495916925

Other (2)

Kelley, SM., (2019).Freedom’s debtors: British antislavery in the age of revolution. Slavery & Abolition. 40(2),Informa UK Limited

Kelley, SM., (2016).Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW. 121(4),Oxford University Press (OUP)

Grants and funding


Documenting Africans in Trans-Atlantic Slavery (DATAS)

Arts and Humanities Research Council

+44 (0) 1206 874194


5B.127, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Friday, 10AM-12noon