Repressed Memories: Historical Perspectives on Trafficking and Anti-Trafficking



Eileen P. Scully

Historian on the faculty of Bennington College in Vermont


Modern international trafficking in forced labor took hold during the 1850s, and crossed into the twentieth century as a seemingly intractable global phenomenon. Contemporaries described this worldwide enterprise as the “white slave trade.” As shorthand for sex-trafficking, “the white slave trade” has a very long pedigree. The first cross-national, public-private coalition against trafficking in women and children was forged in the late nineteenth century by the London-based National Vigilance Association. This coalition generated the foundational treaties and directional momentum for international anti-trafficking projects across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.