Final Public Oral Exam: Christopher Michael Florio

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
August 29, 2016 - 1:00pm
Christopher Michael Florio
Princeton University
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

The Poor Always with You: Poverty in an Age of Emancipation, 1833-1865


Daniel Rodgers, adviser
Hendrik Hartog
Sean Wilentz
Amy Dru Stanley (University of Chicago)


The Poor Always with You: Poverty in an Age of Emancipation, 1833-1865 is an inquiry into the entangled histories of slavery and poverty. It begins with the near-simultaneous passage of the Slavery Abolition Act and the Poor Law Amendment Act in Britain in the 1830s, and continues through the Civil War era in the United States in the 1860s, exploring how Americans and Britons confronted the specter of poverty during an era of slave emancipation. It tells a story, too, of how efforts to manage working people—to mobilize as well as maintain them—spurred numerous Americans and Britons to formulate ideas and practices that linked the conditions of slavery and poverty, in locations that ranged widely across the United States and the British Empire. This dissertation thus investigates the ways in which the lives of poor and enslaved people were imagined to—and did—intertwine during a period of profound change. This is a history that traces how the problems of slavery and poverty were bound up with one another in struggles over the economic future of the Anglo-American world.

The scholarly consensus holds that most Americans and Britons sharply delineated the problems of slavery and poverty. This study affords a new perspective on the economic imagination, illuminating how an array of transnational operatives argued that the problems of slavery and poverty intersected. In addition, many histories of emancipation trace how free labor supplanted slave labor as the engine of the global economy. This study challenges this narrative of transition by highlighting how the practices used to manage slaves were also used to mobilize destitute free laborers, both before and after the abolition of slavery. Altogether, this dissertation suggests that probing the entangled histories of poverty and slavery is at once to reflect on the mutable construction of moral problems, to rethink the assumed boundaries of slavery and freedom, and to reassess the economic significance of the working poor, enslaved and free.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review one week before the exam in the History Graduate Student Lounge, 105 Dickinson Hall.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.


Area of Interest: 
African American
Economic History
Race & Ethnicity
United States
19th Century