Manuel studied History at undergraduate level at the University of Havana. He then took a MA in Comparative History and a PhD in History at the University of Essex. After concluding his PhD he went on to teach at the universities of Essex and Nottingham before moving to Leeds in 2006.
Manuel's research focuses on the history of slavery and the slave trade in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world. He is also a contributor to The Huffington Post, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and Al Jazeera in English. In 2014 he was awarded a prestigious Philip Leverhume Prize in History, given every year to researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising.