Joseph joined Aston as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Modern History in June 2018. Before this, he was a postdoctoral associate at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and a Lecturer in History at Yale University. He also served as a Perkins Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University, affiliated with the Princeton Humanities Center and the Center for Digital Humanities. Prior to his arrival in the UK, he designed and taught courses on digital and transnational history at a number of universities in the United States.
Joseph’s main fields of interest are slavery and abolition, with a special focus on America, West Africa, and the wider world during the nineteenth century. Other areas of interest include political and social movements, missionaries and religion, capitalism and globalization, and the United States in the world. He is also interested in digital scholarship and has developed several public projects, most recently Princeton & Slavery. More information can be found on his blog.
Currently, Joseph is completing a book about the Mendi Mission and the role of Africa in the American abolition of slavery. Established in the wake of the Amistad revolt, the mission was a transatlantic extension of the Underground Railroad and a key site of action and imagination in the global contest over chattel slavery. He is also developing new digital projects, including an interactive, comparative database of runaway advertisements.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Slavery in the United States
Slavery in West Africa
Yale University: PhD
Media Appearances (6)
The Nelsons of Bridgetown and Birmingham: what two statues tell us about the legacy of colonialism
The Conversation online
Control over memorials was recently centralised by the UK government, giving ministers a final say on decisions by local councils to remove or alter statues, plaques and other public displays of heritage. It is the latest development in a reckoning that began this summer when monuments to slave traders, imperialists and racists fell on both sides of the Atlantic, in a new iteration of a centuries-old freedom struggle.
A renaming question very close to home
Yale Alumni Magazine online
There is no evidence that Elihu Yale (1649–1721) ever owned enslaved people in his own name. But as governor and president of the East India Company’s settlement in Madras, he oversaw an operation that traded in products of many kinds, and also in human slaves. “The evidence is overwhelming; it’s right there in front of you in black and white,” says Joseph Yannielli ’15PhD, a lecturer at Aston University in the United Kingdom; as a Yale graduate student, he wrote a paper about Elihu Yale’s links to slavery. “He wasn’t going around writing pro-slavery tracts or speaking out in favor of slavery like John C. Calhoun [Class of 1804], but he was part of the Indian Ocean slave trade and he profited from it.”
#CancelYale called a right-wing ‘poke’ to distract from protests
New Haven Register online
Not that Elihu Yale was blameless. “I think the evidence is pretty clear and it's pretty damning,” said Joseph Yannielli, who wrote about Yale's past ...
Stained, Lacquered, Checkered: Elihu and I in Chennai
Yale Daily News online
Professor Joseph Yannielli — previously a postdoc at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition — has extensively studied Elihu Yale’s involvement with the Indian Ocean slave trade. I read a lot of his work while I was in India. While some sources seek to portray Yale as an abolitionist, this is counterfactual, Yannielli writes. Yannielli notes that in addition to supporting the Company’s policy of exporting black South Indian slaves to colonies like that on St. Helena, Elihu Yale attended a meeting wherein it was agreed that “a minimum of ten slaves [must be] sent on every outbound European ship … ” At least ten. This is the figure that bothers my father the most. Ten. A number large enough to be a whole family, and small enough to comprehend. Ten. The number of people who left on boats, looking back, looking like him. The number of people who probably never came back.
Princeton and Slavery Symposium explores U.S. history ‘writ small,’ reveals ‘powerful and fruitful’ research
Princeton University online
Joseph Yannielli, a postdoctoral associate at the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University, demonstrated, via a heat map, the data on Princeton’s Southern student population, many of whom were sons of wealthy slave owners. “Slavery and racism became part of the DNA on campus,” said Yannielli, a former postdoctoral research associate with the Humanities Council and the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton who served as the project manager and lead developer for the Princeton and Slavery website. He noted that more Princeton graduates fought for the Confederacy than the Union (although the Civil War veteran inscriptions in Nassau Hall do not note on which side each soldier fought).
A slave auction, slave-owning presidents: Princeton U. unveils a dark past
Joseph Yannielli, a postdoctoral research associate with the Humanities Council and the Center for Digital Humanities, manages the website and project.
Mo TappanJournal of the Civil War Era
Established in the early 1850s in what is now southern Sierra Leone, Mo Tappan was a direct descendant of the Amistad slave revolt and served as a transatlantic extension of the American abolitionist movement. Named after philanthropist Lewis Tappan, the town was a symbolic, intentional community. As the forward operating station of the Mendi Mission, it was a hub of education, commerce, and cultural exchange. It was the site of the first systematic studies of the Mende language, the first printed material in Mende, and some of the earliest recorded examples of Mende literature and folklore.
A Yahgan for the killing: murder, memory and Charles DarwinThe British Journal for the History of Science
In March 1742, British naval officer John Byron witnessed a murder on the western coast of South America. Both Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy seized upon Byron's story a century later, and it continues to play an important role in Darwin scholarship today. This essay investigates the veracity of the murder, its appropriation by various authors, and its false association with the Yahgan people encountered during the second voyage of the Beagle (1831-1836). Darwin's use of the story is examined in multiple contexts, focusing on his relationship with the history of European expansion and cross-cultural interaction and related assumptions about slavery and race.
The nationalist international: Or what American history can teach us about the fascist revolutionEuropean Journal of Political Theory
In challenging Marxist theorists to confront the radical rebirth at the core of the fascist revolution, Roger Griffin has carried fascist studies to a new and valuable plateau. Likewise, David D. Roberts’s elaboration of Griffin’s model offers a provocative and fruitful avenue to rethink fascist political culture. This article seeks to advance the dialogue to the next level by considering what an international approach can add to these primarily nationalist interpretations of generic fascism. Drawing on examples from the history of the United States, I argue that fascism is a fundamentally cosmopolitan process and that it needs to be placed on a broader continuum with the histories of slavery, racism and nationalism.