Nowhere in legal history has the nexus between past and present received more attention in recent years than in the study of slavery. The memory of slavery has become a field of study in itself, and competing histories of slavery have animated contemporary legal and political debates. Today, new histories of capitalism have further illuminated the central role of slavery and the slave trade in building the modern Atlantic world. Across Europe, the United Kingdom, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States, new memorials, museums, and commemorations of slavery and abolition have brought new kinds of public engagement to the slave past. In the era of Black Lives Matter, understanding the connections between that past and the present day has never seemed more important, and historians are struggling with the question of how to engage the present in a historically nuanced way. One kind of engagement between past and present, among historians, lawyers, and activists, has been to draw connections between slavery in the past and in the present.
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