Life-changing slavery research gets the royal seal of
Last updated on 2/29/2016 Print this page
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of
Cornwall have presented the University of Hull with a medal for its
pioneering research into historic and contemporary slavery.
The Queen’s Anniversary Prize was presented to Professor Calie
Pistorius, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Professor John
Oldfield, the Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study
of Slavery and Emancipation, at a Buckingham Palace ceremony, on
The University of Hull was one of only 21 UK universities and
colleges honoured with the prestigious award.
The Wilberforce Institute was selected after a rigorous
procedure, which examined the transformational research carried out
into both historical and contemporary forms of slavery.
The Institute’s work to highlight how many people are enslaved
in the world today was also noted by the judging panel.
An estimated 35 million people are enslaved worldwide in an
illegal trade worth £150 billion, more than at any point in
The Institute helped to establish the Global Slavery Index (GSI)
with the Walk Free Foundation, in Australia, in order to establish
the scale of the problem.
Staff from the Wilberforce Institute, which is based next to the
birthplace of abolitionist William Wilberforce in High Street,
Hull, now advises governments around the world on tackling the
problems highlighted by the GSI.
The Institute has helped the UK Government revise its estimate
of the number of adult and child slaves working in the UK today - a
number which now stands at 13,000. Along with this, academics from
the Wilberforce Institute took a major role in shaping the Modern
Slavery Act, which was passed by Parliament last year (March
The Wilberforce Institute also serves as the hub for a new
five-year project bringing the lessons of the past to bear on
issues of modern-day slavery.
Professor Calie Pistorius, Vice-Chancellor at the University of
The University is extremely proud to be receiving this
honour. It is a reflection of the vision and hard work that has
taken place, the impact of the Institute and its life changing
work. The Institute was established ten years ago and many people
have been involved over that decade in doing important work that is
now helping to transform legislation to address the growing issue
of modern day slavery.
The Institute’s Director, Professor John Oldfield said:
It is my firm belief that only by studying the past can we
imagine a future that is different. The Wilberforce Institute is
both studying the past and using this study to help to imagine a
future that is significantly different. Receiving this award is
recognition of the Institute’s cutting-edge research, not least in
revising estimates of those enslaved today. Winning the Queen’s
Anniversary Prize not only confirms our global reputation in the
field of slavery studies but puts us in a position to attract the
levels of funding that will allow us to go on producing research
that informs public practice and policy, at local, national and
The Queen's Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years to
universities and colleges who submit work judged to be beneficial
for the institution and for people and society generally. They are
regarded as the most prestigious form of recognition for UK
academic and vocational institutions.
An independent assessment process is administered by the Queen's
Anniversary Trust, involving individual review by assessors drawn
from a wide range of professions and expertise. At the
conclusion of the process, entries meeting the exacting standards
sought by the Prizes are recommended to The Queen for approval on
the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Institute is named after William Wilberforce (MP for Hull
and later Yorkshire). He was the leading parliamentary opponent of
the slave trade, a campaign that lasted nearly 20 years, from 1787
to 1807. He withstood fierce opposition and was deeply
unpopular among pro-slavery interests in the UK. His death in 1833
coincided with the passage of the Slave Emancipation Act of the
same year; it is said that Wilberforce received news of this
victory on his deathbed. He was a major political figure who
devoted nearly 50 years of his life to the struggle against slavery
and the slave trade.
The Institute was established with the help of Hull City Council
a decade ago.