Edward Rugemer

Edward Rugemer's picture
Associate Professor of African American Studies & History; Director of Undergraduate Studies, History
81 Wall, Room 202
Fields of interest: 

Comparative slavery & abolition; Antebellum US history

A historian of slavery and abolition, Ed Rugemer grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Fairfield University in 1993. He received his doctorate in History from Boston College in 2005 and joined the faculty at Yale in 2007. His first book The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2008) explores how the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean shaped the coming of the American Civil War. The book won the Avery Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians for the most original book on the Civil War era; the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize from Yale University; and was co-winner of the Francis B. Simkins Award of the Southern Historical Association for the best first book in southern history.
His second book, Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance in the Early Atlantic World, forthcoming with Harvard University Press, explains how the organized resistance of black people shaped the formation of Atlantic slavery. The laws of slavery reflect the political struggle between enslaved people and their masters, which could lay dormant for years, but always reignited with great drama. Slave Law compares the politics of two slave societies over the longue durée because every slave society was distinct, and the politics of resistance changed slowly over time. Comparison enables not only the illumination of difference, but also the perception of commonality. As every generation of masters and slaves adapted to new conditions, the politics of resistance became more complex. In the late eighteenth century when the abolitionists emerged, these politics changed again. Slavery seemed contradictory with enlightenment notions of freedom, but slaves were private property, protected by law. When South Carolina became part of the United States, slaveholders gained power that their Jamaican counterparts never enjoyed. South Carolina slaveholders pioneered the expansion of slavery in the American South, while white Jamaicans fought a losing battle against Caribbean rebels and British abolitionists. Slavery ended in Jamaica in 1834, thirty years before it ended in South Carolina, and it ended through an act of the British Parliament, not through a brutal civil war. By placing the origins of these slave societies at the beginning of a history that ends with abolition in one of them, we consider the deep roots of why abolition happened when it did, where it did.
An article based on this project, “The Development of Mastery and Race in the Comprehensive Slave Codes of the Greater Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century” appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly in July 2013. Rugemer has also published articles in the Journal of Southern History, Slavery and Abolition, Reviews in American History, and the Journal of the Civil War Era.
At Yale, Professor Rugemer teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels on slavery and abolition in the Atlantic World from about 1500 to 1888. Previous to his career as a historian he served as a Jesuit volunteer, teaching at St. George’s College, a Jesuit high-school for boys in downtown Kingston, Jamaica, from 1994-1996. He continues to work with youth as a Little League baseball coach in New Haven.