Leverhulme Lecture: Professor Sophie White

Professor White presents a lecture entitled '"His Master's Grace": Extrajudicial Violence and Mercy in Atlantic Slave Societies'.

This project explores extrajudicial violence against the enslaved by focusing on punishment, surveillance and a corollary: the mechanisms in place for the enslaved to secure mercy and clemency.

Records abound that document the ubiquity of extrajudicial punishments through which slaveowners policed their slaves’ conduct in Atlantic societies. Yet, also running through these archives are references to enslaved individuals actively seeking out — and being granted — mercy, in exchange for a carefully honed performance of contrition and submissiveness.

Drawing on testimony by enslaved Africans in the 18th century French Atlantic, this project situates extrajudicial violence and clemency through reference to legal and religious antecedents (including Roman Law). The focus remains however on the words and actions of the enslaved themselves, and the ways that asking for grace constituted a strategy of refusal and righteousness.

About the speaker

Professor Sophie White is Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie College Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. In 2023 and 2024 she is Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor in the School of History. Read an interview with Sophie from her first residency with the School in March 2023.


Please register using this online form. Please note, this lecture is in-person only, with no streaming.


This lecture is supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

Since its foundation in 1925, the Leverhulme Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education, funding research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes; it operates across all the academic disciplines, the intention being to support talented individuals as they realise their personal vision in research and professional training. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £100 million a year. For more information about the Trust, please visit www.leverhulme.ac.uk and follow the Trust on Twitter/X @LeverhulmeTrust

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