Dr Michael Bennett
BA (KCL), MRes (Kent), Ph.D. (Sheffield)
Department of History
Lecturer in Early Modern British History
Full contact details
Department of History
1 Upper Hanover Street
I joined the History Department in 2022. Before that, I worked as a Research Associate at The University of Manchester and the Bank of England.
I am a social and economic historian of the English (later British) empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Broadly conceived, my research is concerned with the reciprocal relationship between early modern Britain and the Caribbean plantation system.
I am committed to presenting my research on British imperial history to public, heritage, and policy audiences. Since 2020, I have worked as a researcher on public-facing projects with Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, Somerset House, and the University of Sheffield.
Most recently, I led the Bank of England’s research project into its links to historical slavery between 1694 and 1888. The findings of the archival research were incorporated into a major new exhibition in the Bank of England Museum, titled Slavery & the Bank.
My research has been supported by grants from the AHRC, Royal Historical Society, Society for Renaissance Studies, Huntington Library, John Carter Brown Library, and Eccles Centre for American Studies (British Library).
- BA (Hons), King’s College London, 2015
- Masters by Research, University of Kent, 2016
- Ph.D., The University of Sheffield, 2020
- Research interests
My in-progress book manuscript tells the story of the Caribbean sugar boom, a period of remarkable economic expansion and social change which began in Barbados during the 1640s. The sugar boom was a pivotal moment in world history: social and economic developments in mid-seventeenth-century Barbados are a vital part of the origin story of plantation slavery in the British empire and the United States and are also important for understanding the rise of London as a hub of world commerce and finance. The book’s specific contribution is to analyse the role played by London merchants in financing the initial development of plantation slavery in Barbados during the 1640s and to explore the significance of transatlantic slavery to social and economic developments in England in the second half of the seventeenth century.
More broadly, I am interested in the role of slavery and colonialism in the making of the City of London as a centre of world commerce and finance during the long eighteenth century. This is reflected in my ongoing research into the Bank of England’s links to historical slavery between 1694 and 1888.
I also have a secondary research interest in the history of English trade and colonialism in the Indian Ocean world. I have published several book chapters and a journal article on the English East India Company’s relationship with slavery and unfree labour in the south Atlantic and Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
- Caribbean plantation economies as colonial models: the case of the English East India Company and St. Helena in the late seventeenth century. Atlantic Studies. View this article in WRRO
- Slaves, Weavers, and the Peopling of East India Company Colonies, 1660–1730, Slavery and Bonded Labor in Asia, 1250–1900 (pp. 229-255). BRILL
- Migration, The Corporation as a Protagonist in Global History, c. 1550-1750 (pp. 68-95). BRILL
- David Veevers. The Origins of the British Empire in Asia, 1600–1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. Pp. 293. $99.99 (cloth).. Journal of British Studies, 60(4), 975-976. View this article in WRRO
- European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500-1850. By Richard B. Allen. Ohio University Press. 2014. xviii +378pp. $34.95.. History, 101(348), 780-782. View this article in WRRO
- Report on Sheffield, Slavery and Its Legacies
- Thomas Guy, Sir Robert Clayton and Our Shared Colonial Past: Sources, Context, Connections
Theses / Dissertations
- Merchant Capital and the Origins of the Barbados Sugar Boom, 1627-1672.
- The East India Company, Transnational Interactions, and the Formation of Forced Labour Regimes, 1635-1730.
- Research group
- John Carter Brown Library Short-Term Fellowship (2021)
- Eccles Centre for American Studies (British Library) Short-Term Fellowship (2020)
- Huntington Library Short-Term Fellowship (2020)
- Society for Renaissance Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship (2020)
- AHRC International Placement Scheme Fellowship (2017)
- AHRC White Rose Competition PhD Scholarship (2016)
- Teaching interests
I teach on modules focusing on early modern Britain and the British empire, across both the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
- Teaching activities
- HST112 - Paths from Antiquity to Modernity
- HST21012 - The Putney Debates, October 1647
- HST3306 - A Comparative History of Revolution
- HST6602 - Early Modernities
- Public engagement
Between 2020 and 2022 I have worked as a researcher on public-facing projects exploring Britain’s links to historical slavery with Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, Somerset House, and The University of Sheffield and Sheffield-based community groups. These projects have resulted in three research reports that have had an impact on public memorialisation and policy.
Most recently, I led the Bank of England’s high-profile research project into its links to historical slavery between 1694 and 1888. The findings of the archival research were incorporated into a major new exhibition in the Bank of England Museum, titled Slavery & the Bank, which launched in April 2022.
Based on this work, I have ongoing collaborations with Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Bank of England.
In the media:
My research with the Bank of England has featured in The Guardian, The Times, and The Telegraph.