The Glasgow Human Rights Network holds lectures, workshops and conferences, featuring internationally renowned experts in the field of human rights.

Book Sharing: Bought and Sold, Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery, 28th September, 4pm - 6.30pm

Sperker: Kate Phillips 
Date and time: Wednesday 28 September, 4pm - 6.30pm
Venue: Fore Hall, West Quadrangle, Gilbert Scott Building, University of Glasgow

The Glasgow Human Rights Network is delighted to welcome Kate Phillips with her recently published book 'Bought and Sold, Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery', to discuss Scotland's role in the Jamaican slave trade. The event is co-hosted with Adam Smith Business School and will be hosted by our network's convenor, Dr. Yingru Li. 

Detailed event information:

Eventbrite registration: 


The book “Bought and Sold, Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery” traces the story of how and why thousands of Scots made money from buying and selling humans. In the book, author Kate Phillips, traces Scotland and Jamaica’s closely entwined story from its early beginnings in the 1700s to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, and reflects on the meaning of those years for both nations today. Talking about her book to an audience at the University of Glasgow on the evening of September 28th, Kate argued that in the seventeen and 1800s, Scots were deeply involved in slavery.

She began by describing how Glasgow merchants controlled a three cornered trade, giving loans to planters in the colonies to buy enslaved workers and in return receiving payment in produce: the sugar, tobacco and cotton which the slaves planted and harvested. This produce was processed and sold in Glasgow, where planter profits were built up to be invested in other industries, such as coal mining, iron smelting, textiles and banking. 

Pressure to pay loans and rapidly build profit for further investment led planters to force slaves into long hours and intense hard work, which often led to an early death. Orders for further slaves were passed to Glasgow merchants, who made further profit by hiring and equipping ships to trade off the West African coast and carry human cargoes to the biggest slave market in the world in Kingston, Jamaica.

Wealthy merchant families displayed their resulting rise in social status by building themselves large mansions. A Glasgow townscape of large private homes, ornate churches and grand civic buildings all testified to Scotland’s involvement of the slave trade.

Kate went on to describe the ways in which slavery divided opinion in the city. Within the University a strong and active anti-slavery group of staff and students was established, arguing that slavery was immoral and encouraging the public and fellow students to send petitions to parliament. She pointed out that Adam Smith debated the issues with merchants in the coffee houses of Glasgow and provided an economic critique of slavery. He argued that a waged workforce was much more efficient.

In the discussion which followed the recent activity of the university in researching and publishing how far the institution may have profited from slavery was highlighted, along with their ongoing work, publishing previously hidden histories, correcting colonial perspectives and cooperating with partners to address some of the economic and social development problems faced by countries such as Jamaica.

Seminar: Business and Human Rights, 25th May, 1.00pm-2.15pm

The Adam Smith Business School is holding a seminar with Professor Florian Wettstein on the topic of business and human rights. The seminar is part of the business school's Wards Seminar Series, and will be hosted by our network's convenor, Dr Yingru Li. Please feel free to join. 

The seminar will be held online on Wednesday 25 May, 1.00pm-2.15pm. 

Title: Three perspectives on the relation between BHR and CSR

Abstract: The relationship between the long-standing discussion on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the more recent discussion on business and human rights (BHR) has attracted some scholarly attention by now, producing different and sometimes conflicting conceptualisations. In this seminar we will assess three such proposals and reflect on their interrelation and the implications deriving from them. The three perspectives emphasise 1) BHR as a critical response to CSR, 2) the co-optation or colonisation of BHR by CSR, and 3) the co-evolutionary potential of the two discussions. What is at stake is the legitimacy of CSR both as a practice and a scholarly concept, and the very viability of BHR as a distinct field of scholarship.

Biography: Florian Wettstein is Chair and Professor of Business Ethics and Director of the Institute for Business Ethics at University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.  Florian has published widely on topics at the intersection of corporate responsibility, business ethics and business and human rights and is the author of Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-Governmental Institution (Stanford University Press, 2009), and of the recently published textbook, Business and Human Rights: Ethical, Legal, and Managerial Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2022). Florian is a founding Editor-in-Chief of the Business and Human Rights Journal (BHRJ).

Please find the zoom link:

Seminar: Structures of Injustice, Workers’ Rights and Human Rights, 12pm, 31st March

Speaker: Professor Virginia Mantouvalou

Virginia Mantouvalou is Professor of Human Rights and Labour Law at UCL, Faculty of Laws. In 2021 she held a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship for her work on structural injustice, workers’ rights and human rights. Her book Structures of Injustice, Workers’ Rights and Human Rights is forthcoming by OUP in 2022. Her most recent co-edited book, Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law (with Hugh Collins and Gillian Lester), was published by OUP in 2018. She is Articles Co-Editor of the Modern Law Review, member of the editorial board of the Stanford Studies in Human Rights, Co-Editor of the UK Labour Law Blog and the Studies in Law and Social Justice and was Joint Editor of Current Legal Problems. She has held visiting positions at Georgetown University Law Centre in Washington DC and the Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

Date and Time: 31st March, 12:00 - 13:30.

Zoom Link: 

Meeting ID: 976 1788 7723  Passcode: 920575

Abstract: An increasing number of jobs are precarious, making workers vulnerable to various forms of ill-treatment and exploitation. The UK Government’s main approach has been to criminalise the actions of unscrupulous employers who seek to exploit precarious workers. This approach, however, has been ineffective, partly because it ignores the broader socio-economic structures that place workers in conditions of vulnerability. This project seeks to identify structures that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. It focuses specifically on what I call ‘state-mediated structural injustice’, where laws that promote aims with an appearance of legitimacy create vulnerabilities that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. In order to illustrate the unjust structures, I use examples such as restrictive visa regimes, work while in prison or immigration detention, and welfare conditionality programmes that force people into precarious work.

In my talk I will discuss some of these examples, and will consider whether these legal structures are compatible with human rights law. I suggest that these instances of state-mediated structural injustice may violate rights, such as the prohibition of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, the right to work, the right to private life and the prohibition of discrimination. This injustice will be rectified not through modern slavery laws that criminalise employers who engage in serious exploitation and abuse, but through broader legal reform.

This talk will be followed by a Q&A session.


The topic of the seminar is Structures of Injustice, Workers’ Rights and Human Rights, and Professor Virginia Mantouvalou started by introducing the UK Government’s main approach to address various forms of exploitation. She suggested that the UK Government’s approach has been to criminalise the actions of unscrupulous employers who seek to exploit precarious workers. This approach focuses on individual criminal responsibility for those who ill-treated workers. However, this focus on individual responsibility for precarious and exploitative work is ineffective because it ignores broader socio-economic structures that place workers in a position of vulnerability.

Secondly, examples of legal rules are discussed to show that laws could create vulnerabilities that force and trap workers in conditions of exploitation. In this talk, Professor Virginia Mantouvalou provided three examples: first, immigration rules such as restrictive visa schemes that domestic workers and migrant workers need to follow; second, working prisoners as well as immigration detainees; third, welfare-to-work schemes that force people into precarious work.

Next, Professor Virginia Mantouvalou proposed a new concept, the concept of “state-mediated structural injustice”, to describe the situation where laws that promote aims with an appearance of legitimacy creates vulnerability to exploitation. Focused on the state-mediated structural injustice, Professor Virginia Mantouvalou argued that the state is responsible and should be held accountable for this structural injustice, and furthermore, the human rights law could be used as an effective tool to challenge the legal rules. It was suggested that the state-mediated structural injustice may violate human rights, such as the prohibition of forced and compulsory labour, the right to private life, labour inspections, and health and safety, the right to social security, the right to work, and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, etc. And to change the injustice structure, it requires work from a variety of actors including human rights courts as well as other civil society organisations.


All of our events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise stated.  Some events may require you to pre-book. 

Our events are booked in wheelchair accessible rooms unless otherwise stated. We recommend using the accessibility information and 'Buildings and Room Finder' app provided on the Universioty of Glasgow webpage for accessibility ( If you have access needs beyond wheelchair access and information given for specific rooms, please contact the event organisers stated (contact details in the event description) or otherwise GHRN Co-Convenor Yingru Li ( or well in advance of the event.   

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