Damian Pargas

Damian Pargas is Executive Director of the RIAS and Professor of the History and Culture of North America at Leiden University.



Research Interests

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 2022 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/Boston: 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/Boston: 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.

Currently, Damian supervises the RIAS research project “Racial Democracy: Challenges to Civic Democratic Ideals in American History.” He  is working on a new book titled In the Shadows of Slavery: Free Black Citizenship and Democracy in Antebellum America.