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Professor of Contemporary Slavery, University of Hull

Kevin Bales is Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation. He was Co-Founder of Free the Slaves, the US Sister organization of Anti-Slavery International and is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Roehampton University in London. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the International Cocoa Initiative. His book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy published in 1999, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and has now been published in ten other languages. Archbishop Desmond Tutu called it “a well researched, scholarly and deeply disturbing expose of modern slavery”. In 2008 he was invited to address the Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Paris, and to join in the planning of the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative.

In 2006 his work was named one of the top “100 World-Changing Discoveries” by the Association of British Universities. The Italian edition of Disposable People won the Premio Viareggio for services to humanity in 2000, and the documentary based on his work, which he co-wrote, Slavery: A Global Investigation , won the Peabody Award for 2000 and two Emmy Awards in 2002. Other awards include the Laura Smith Davenport Human Rights Award in 2005; the Judith Sargeant Murray Award for Human Rights in 2004; and the Human Rights Award of the University of Alberta in 2003. He was also awarded a Prime Mover Fellowship by the Hunt Alternatives Fund in 2009 and a Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa , by Loyola University Chicago, in May 2010.

He was a Trustee of Anti-Slavery International and a consultant to the United Nations Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings. He has been invited to advise the US, British, Irish, Norwegian, and Nepali governments, as well as the governments of the Economic Community of West African States, on the formulation of policy on slavery and human trafficking. He edited an Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkit for the United Nations, and published, with the Human Rights Center at Berkeley, a report on forced labour in the USA, and completed a two-year study of human trafficking into the US for the National Institute of Justice. His book Understanding Global Slavery was published in September 2005. He is the author of New Slavery: A Reference Handbook (revised 2nd ed. 2005). In 2007 he published Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves , a roadmap for the global eradication of slavery which won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Promoting World Order. In 2008, with Zoe Trodd, he published To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves ; and with eight Magnum photographers, Documenting Disposable People: Contemporary Global Slavery . In 2009 he published with Ron Soodalter The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today , the first full exploration of contemporary slavery in the United States. He is currently writing a book on the relationship between slavery and environmental destruction, and with Jody Sarich a book on forced marriage.

He gained his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics.


  • –present
    Professor of Contemporary Slavery, University of Hull