Joseph C. Miller

T. Cary Johnson, Jr. Professor, Emeritus

Field & Specialties

Early Africa, Slavery, Slave Trade, Atlantic History, World History


B.A. Wesleyan 1961
M.B.A. Northwestern 1963
M.A. Wisconsin 1967
Ph.D. Wisconsin 1972


The Problem of Slavery as History (First David Brion Davis Lectures, Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery and Abolition) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).

 Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2012 for History, Geography, and Area Studies within the Social and Behavioral Sciences category

Editor, “A Scholar for All Seasons: Jill Dias, 1944-2008,” special issue of Portuguese Studies Review (2011), with Philip J. Havik and David Birmingham.


Editor, Children in Slavery around the World (2 vols.) (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010-11), with Gwyn Campbell and Suzanne Miers.

Contributing editor, special issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, 66, 4 (2009).

“Introduction: Atlantic Ambiguities of British and American Abolition,” special issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, 66, 4 (2009), pp. 675-703.

The Bibliography of Slavery and World Slaving -

“Life Begins at Fifty: African Studies Enters its Second Half Century,” African Studies Review, 50, 2 (2007), pp. 1-35.

Editor, Women and Slavery (2 vols.) (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007). With Gwyn Campbell and Suzanne Miers.

Editor, New Encyclopedia of Africa (5 vols.) (Farmington Hills MI: Scribner’s/Macmillan, 2007). With John Middleton. (Winner, Conover-Porter Prize, African Studies Association, 2010)

“Beyond Blacks, Bondage, and Blame: Why a Multi-Centric World History Needs Africa,” Historically Speaking (Newsletter of The Historical Society), 5, 2 (2004), pp. 7-12. (lead essay in forum, with responses)

“Retention, Re-Invention, and Remembering: Restoring Identities Through Enslavement in Africa and Under Slavery in Brazil,” in José C. Curto and Paul E. Lovejoy, eds., Enslaving Connections: Changing Cultures of Africa and Brazil during the Era of Slavery (Amherst NY: Prometheus/Humanity Books, 2003), pp. 81-121.

“A Theme in Variations: A Historical Schema of Slaving in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Regions,” in Gwyn Campbell, ed., “The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia,” in special issue of Slavery and Abolition, 24, 2 (2003), pp. 169-94.

“The Historical Contexts of Slavery in Europe,” in Per O. Hernaes and Tore Iversen, eds., Slavery Across Time and Space: Studies in Slavery in Medieval Europe and Africa (Trondheim: Department of History, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2002), pp. 1-57.

"History and Africa / Africa and History," American Historical Review, 104, 1 (1999), pp. 1-32. Presidential address, American Historical Association.

Editor (with Paul Finkelman), Macmillan Encyclopedia of World Slavery. Macmillan, 1999.

Slavery and Slaving in World History: A Bibliography, 1900-1991. Millwood NY: Kraus International, 1993. (10,344 entries, xiii+584 pp.); Corrected, reformatted second edition, Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1999.

Slavery and Slaving in World History: A Bibliography - Vol 2, 1992-96. Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1999. (3897 entries, xxi + 244 pp.) (Winner, Conover-Porter Prize, African Studies Association, 2000)

Editor (History), Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara. Macmillan, 1997. (Winner, Conover-Porter Prize, African Studies Association, 1998)

Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830. University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.

Winner of the 1989 Melville Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association. Special citation, Bolton Prize Committee, Conference of Latin American Historians.

Slavery and Slaving in World History: A Worldwide Bibliography, 1900-1982. Millwood NY: Kraus International, 1993. (10,344 entries, xiii+584 pp.)

Nominated for 1994 Conover-Porter Price (African Studies Association) Corrected, reformatted second edition, Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1999

Editor of The African Past Speaks: Essays on Oral Tradition and History. Dawson Publishing, 1980.

Slavery: A Comparative Teaching Bibliography. Crossroads Press, 1977.

Kings and Kinsmen: Early Mbundu States in Angola. Clarendon Press, 1976.

Translated as Poder Político e Parentesco. Arquivo Histórico Nacional, Angola, 1996

More than 80 chapters, articles, and other essays.

Current Research

A World History of Slaving (Cambridge University Press) from the earliest human times through the nineteenth century. Hundreds of comparative studies have demonstrated the near-ubiquity of an institution once thought "peculiar" to the Old South, but few have concentrated on slavery as historical process. Strategies of slaving in the ancient Mediterranean, the Islamic world, Africa, the Renaissance Mediterranean, Brazil, the West Indies, the Indian Ocean basin, and the United States reveal recurrent intensely dynamic processes of bringing outsiders as slaves into labor vacuums created during times of rapid economic growth or political expansion. Slavery thus arguably lies at the heart of "classical Greece and Rome", the Muslim oecumene, political development in Africa, the southern European Renaissance, and the origins of the modern era on all shores of the Atlantic. Prior to the Atlantic experience, most of those enslaved were women; the males assembled in unprecedented numbers in the New World were truly new.

In the Americas, recurrent internal processes led through initial formation of captive populations, creation of cultures of slavery, definition of legal constraints, collective revolt, growth of locally born generations of slaves, and drift among many different paths toward other forms of dependent labor systems. Abolition as a government responsibility emerged with the definition of participatory civic "nation states". These profoundly historical dynamics of slavery, and the necessarily trans-regional scales on which they operated, illustrate the distinctive transcending qualities of world history, as contrasted with the comparative cultural approaches currently dominant in this important field of historical inquiry.

Princeton Companion to Atlantic History, editor (Princeton University Press). A contribution to the Princeton series of Companions to significant fields of knowledge, consisting of introductory overviews of this new and growing field of historical inquiry and approximately 100 A-Z headings for essays, written by specialists, on the principal historical strategies and processes that integrated this vast oceanic space between the late fifteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The headings are designed to move the field beyond its tendencies, to date, to replicate the euro-centric imperial perspectives that it intends to escape, treating Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans in terms of their parallel experiences of growing commercialization.

Africans' Worlds (Oxford University Press), with Suzanne Blier. A book-length interpretive essay on Africa's past, meant for classroom use, from the earliest glimmers of what became human history (ca. 100,000 years ago) to the present. The volume draws on all available expressions of meanings and intentions (the "worlds" referenced in the title), verbal and non-verbal, to demonstrate the historical processes in Africa that have paralleled processes more familiar in other world regions. For students of Africa, the book escapes the extreme (and distorting) selectivity of existing texts based on modern sociological abstractions (e.g. "kingdoms", "empires", "lineages", world religions, capitalism, and the like). For historians of other world regions, it presents Africans on terms readily assimilable into narratives of global human history.

Awards & Honors

Senior Fellow, Center for Historical Research, Department of History, Ohio State University

President, African Studies Association, 2005-06

Fellow, Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 2004-05

James Pinckney Harrison Professor - College of William and Mary, 2001-02

Director, NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes (“Roots: African Dimensions of the Early History and Cultures of the Americas”), 1998 [with Jerome Handler], 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

President, American Historical Association, 1998.

Editor, Journal of African History, 1990-96.

Catherine Gould Chism Visiting Professor in the Humanities and Fine Arts, University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Washington), 1995

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, 1990-95.

American Council of Learned Societies Travel Grants, 1980, 1985.

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, 1978-79, 1985.

National Endowment for the Humanities Research Resources Grants, 1982-83, 1984.

Media Appearances