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Seth Bernard awarded Chancellor Jackman Research Fellowship

Seth Bernard (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2012) has been awarded a 2022-2023 Chancellor Jackman Research Fellowship from the University of Toronto.

Bernard is associate professor of Roman history in the university’s Department of Classics. He works on the social and economic history of Roman Italy, and his work is characterized by its broad methodological interests in combining historical, textual, archaeological, and scientific evidence. He has taught at the University of Toronto since 2014.

University of Toronto fellowship

Bernard has been a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. He has published more than 40 papers on various aspects of Roman social and economic history. His first book, Building Mid-Republican Rome: Labor, Architecture and the Urban Economy (Oxford, 2018) looks at the transformative impact on the city of Rome of the early stages of imperial conquest. He is finishing up a second book on historical culture in Early Italy looking at unwritten ways of encoding history in Iron Age Italy, and he is writing a third on the economic history of Italy during the period of Roman conquest for which he has received an SSHRC Insight Grant.

He is also actively involved in fieldwork and co-directs archaeological excavations at Populonia and Falerii Novi in Italy.

The 12-month Faculty Research Fellows hold an office on the 10th floor of the Jackman Humanities Building and are central members of the Circle of Fellows. They are the University of Toronto’s tenured faculty members by the time of their fellowship, chosen for their distinction in achievements relative to their career stage, the excellence of their proposed project, and its relation to the annual theme for 2022-2023: Labor.

2022-2023 Annual Theme: Labour

From the labor of childbirth to the travail of making a living, human beings are laboring animals who derive meaning and experience meaninglessness in work. Historically, human creativity has long flourished both through and against labor-saving technologies. In a globalizing and climate-changing world, rising nationalist movements call for the fortification of borders that would stop seasonal flows of labor, while women call for pay equity and harassment-free workplaces to allow for the freedom to work in peace. In a world of increasingly precarious labor, thanks in part to automation, what does the future of work portend for both people and the planet? What forms of resistance are possible when workers face both the irrelevance of their labor and its exploitation?

Fellowship Research Project

“At the Origins of Roman Labour: The Making of a Slave Society in Italy, 500-200 BCE”

“My project investigates the early development of Roman slavery, long considered an archetypal system of labor in global premodern history,” explained Bernard. “The exploitation of enslaved persons was central to Rome’s economy, and slaves appear throughout Roman culture and society. Previous work has struggled to understand the origins of this slave society between textual and material evidence, as each corpus has tended to emphasize different trajectories of development. My project presents an entirely new reading of the material by turning to a broader and more interdisciplinary approach, one that situates the rise of Rome’s slave economy within wider Italian and Central Mediterranean labor history.”

Bernard argues that Roman slave society developed significantly during the earliest phases of imperial conquest in the fourth and third centuries BCE, but not necessarily because of any exceptional Roman interest in slaveholding.

“Early Roman slavery should be understood as part of regional and more fundamental changes in the structures of labor. The project points out the benefit to approaching Roman slavery not as a discrete phenomenon, but as a part of broader histories of pre-modern labor,” said Bernard.

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