Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Photo of Connolly, Jonathan

Jonathan Connolly, PhD

Assistant Professor

History (British empire, modern Europe, history of emancipation, legal)


Building & Room:

UH 1011


601 S Morgan St.



Jonathan Connolly is a historian of the British empire with transnational interests in migration, the history of emancipation, and legal history. His research primarily concerns abolition and emancipation, imperial political and legal culture, and the category of free labor in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.

Connolly is the author of Worthy of Freedom: Indenture and Free Labor in the Era of Emancipation (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2024). Worthy of Freedom is a history of Indian indentured labor migration after the abolition of slavery in the British empire. Focused on the making of an imperial indenture system, the book seeks to explain how and why shifting conceptions of “free labor” underwrote increasingly restrictive terms of indenture. In so doing, the book argues that new forms of social-scientific thinking reshaped the category of free labor during the mid-nineteenth century. Linking ideological and structural change, the project also argues that indenture reshaped the political economy of emancipation.

Work related to Connolly’s research on indenture and emancipation has appeared in Past & Present, Slavery & Abolition, and Comparative Studies in Society and History. His article, “Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation,” was awarded the 2019 Walter D. Love Prize by the North American Conference on British Studies. Connolly has also recently published work connected to a new project about legal inquiry and colonial violence in the Law and History Review.

At UIC, Connolly offers courses in Britain and the British empire, modern Europe, comparative legal history, and approaches to the history of migration.

Before coming to UIC, Connolly held postdoctoral fellowships at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, as well as his J.D. from Stanford Law School, in 2017.

Selected Publications

Worthy of Freedom: Indenture and Free Labor in the Era of Emancipation (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2024).

“Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation: Free Trade, Race, and Labour in British Public Debate, 1838-1860,” Past & Present, no. 238 (2018): 85-119.

“Indenture as Compensation: State Funding for Labor Migration in the Era of Emancipation,” Slavery & Abolition 40, no. 3 (2019): 448-71.

“Re-Reading Morant Bay: Protest, Inquiry, and Colonial Rule,” Law and History Review 41, no. 1 (2023): 193-216.

“Antislavery, ‘Native Labour,’ and the Turn to Indenture in British Colonial Natal, 1842-1860,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 65, no. 3 (2023).