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Portrait of Zach Sell

Zach Sell, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of History
Office: 3025 MacAlister

Phone: 215.895.2463


  • PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2017
  • BA, History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2008

Research Interests:

  • Capitalism
  • Colonialism
  • Slavery
  • Global History


I am a scholar of slavery, empire, and colonialism in the nineteenth century. My book, Trouble of the World: Slavery and Empire in the Age of Capital examines the terrible convergence between the expansion of U.S. slavery and the growth of the British Empire in the mid-nineteenth century. I have begun working on a second project focused on global transformations in trade, slavery, and colonialism in the era of the American Revolution.

Before joining Drexel University, I was Ruth J. Simmons Postdoctoral Fellow and visiting assistant professor at Brown University's Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. I am committed to public history and have worked on several projects related to the histories and legacies of racial slavery in the Atlantic world. I have recently served as a faculty advisor for the Choices curriculum Racial Slavery in the Americas: Resistance, Freedom, and Legacies and am also involved in the making of a multi-part documentary film series on the Atlantic slave trade directed by Stanley Nelson.

Selected Publications:

  • Trouble of the World: Slavery and Empire in the Age of Capital (University of North Carolina Press, 2021).
  • "Real Estate Questions: Capital, Slavery, and Empire in the Early United States." History of the Present 10, 1 (2020): 46-66
  • "Asian Indentured Labor in the Age of African American Emancipation" International Labor and Working-Class History 91 (2017): 8-27.
  • "Worst Conceivable Form: Race, Global Capital, and The Making of the English Working Class." Historical Reflections/ Reflexions Historiques 41, 1 (2015): 54-69.