Call for Abstracts—Southwest Historical Quarterly Special Issue “The Persistence of Forced Labor in the Southwest, 1865-2000”


The Southwestern Historical Quarterly is seeking expressions of interest to submit articles to a special issue on coerced labor, forced labor, and slaveries in the Southwest in the period between 1865 and 2000. The Southwest is defined as the border states of the United States west of the Mississippi. Sitting at the crossroads of empires, nation states, and migration streams, the American Southwest has long been a site of labor exploitation, and it continues to be a home to modern slavery. Since the 2000 passage of the Trafficking victims Protection Act and the formation and adoption of the United Nations’ Palermo Protocol, human trafficking and modern slavery has captured the attention of human rights activists, academics, jurists, labor organizers, and many others. Reports that the number of people caught in conditions of modern slavery continue to rise, as do the types of interventions to fight modern slavery. At the same time scholars of contemporary trafficking note that trafficking correlates to immigration restriction. Consequently, the Borderlands of the Southwest provide a fertile ground for interrogating the history of modern slavery. This special issue seeks to take the global phenomenon of modern slavery and trafficking, and ground it in the Southwest, considering the ways that labor migration, immigration restriction, border violence, and economic inequality combine to produce the soil that can give rise to modern slavery.

We are especially interested in work that:

  • Engages critically with the historical production of categories such as “peonage,” “forced labor,” “slavery,” and migratory “illegality” as they have pertained to the Southwest.
  • Examines ways border control regimes produced or exacerbated new vulnerabilities.
  • Explores the historical lived experience of forced labor in public and private institutions (such as reformatories, detention centers, prisons) in the Southwest.
  • Places trafficking and forced labor within a wider discourse of indenture, slavery and un-freedom; as well as imperialism, mobility, and globalization, while showcasing the ways these dynamics played out in the Southwest.
  • Explores how vulnerability, co-ethnic exploitation and solidarity, or disability, age and/or sexuality can serve as catalysing factors in producing forced labor.

All submissions must be historical in focus.

Prospective contributors to this special issue are asked to send an extended abstract of 1,000 words to the issue’s guest editors, John Mckiernan-González ( and Jessica Pliley ( by 15 January 2020. Abstracts should describe the prospective article and how it explicitly engages with the theme of the special issue. Authors should also include a discussion of the sources—archival or published—they will be using in the article.

Selected contributors will be informed within two weeks and asked to submit a complete manuscript by 1 March 2020, which will go through the Southwestern Historical Quarterly’s standard process of peer and editorial review. If the manuscript is accepted for publication at the end of this process, it will be published in the special issue.

Dr. Elizabeth Makowski on her new book “Apostate Nuns in the Later Middle Ages”

Emerita Professor of History Dr. Elizabeth Makowski recently released her new book, titled Apostate Nuns in the Later Middle Ages (Boydell and Brewer 2019, 30% discount using promo code: BB130). 

Dr. Makowski took the time to answer a few questions about her new book and the research behind it! 

Get a 30% discount on Dr. Makowski's book using promo code: BB130
Get a 30% discount on Dr. Makowski’s book using promo code: BB130

Book description: “To make a vow is a matter of the will, to fulfill one is a matter of necessity,” declared late medieval canon law, and religious profession involved the most solemn of those vows. Professed nuns could never renege on their vows and if they did attempt to re-enter secular society, they became apostates. Automatically excommunicated, they could be forcibly returned to their monasteries where, should they remain unrepentant, penalties, including imprisonment ,might be imposed. And although the law imposed uniform censures on male and female apostates, the norms regarding the proper sphere of activity for women within the Church would prohibit disaffected nuns from availing themselves of options short of apostasy that were readily available to monks similarly unhappy with the choices that they had made.

This book is the first to address the practical and legal problems facing women religious, both in England and in Europe, who chose to reject the terms of their profession as nuns. The women featured in these pages acted, and were acted upon, by the law: the volume shows alleged apostates petitioning for redress and actual apostates seeking to extricate themselves, via self-help and litigation, from the moral and legal consequences of their behaviour.

Q: What question(s) did you hope to answer when you started this book?

Dr. Elizabeth Makowski: The unanswered questions with which I was left after finishing my book on cloister regulation of nuns (Canon Law and Cloistered Women) really led to all of my subsequent research projects. Exploring Pope Boniface VIII’s vaunted effort (the papal bull, Periculoso, 1298) to impose strict enclosure upon “all nuns of every order throughout Christendom,” made me curious about the ways religious women who were not technically nuns were treated by Church lawyers and pundits (A Pernicious Sort of Woman). Then I began to wonder how women who were nuns, and who actually tried to implement strict cloister rules, managed to stay financially solvent (English Nuns and the Law in the Middle Ages). I was drawn to the topic of apostate nuns since the rules for the recognition, return, and reintegration of apostate monks and nuns were established at just about the same time that Pope Boniface had attempted to, and at least partially succeeded in, making life for female regulars considerably different from that of their male counterparts. When I began to investigate, I found that scholars had not given very much attention to the topic of female apostasy and that convinced me to begin my own research.

Q: What major challenges did you face in doing this research?

Dr. Makowski: Work on this book was interrupted by a major family health crisis so it was a slow process. I reckon it was seven years in the making and because of the gap between beginning the research/writing, and submitting a draft to my editor at Boydell and Brewer, I had a very hard time crafting the manuscript into the best, most cohesive book it could be.  Integrating the suggestions for revision, given by the readers to whom the manuscript was sent, while remaining true to my initial vision for this book was indeed a challenge. Thanks to those capable and thorough reviewers, and the patience of my editor, well, you can judge for yourselves.

Q: What type of primary sources/archives did you consult?

Dr. Makowski: The most important primary sources used for this book fall into roughly three categories. First, canonical rules and regulations governing apostasy; legislative and doctrinal material that became the formal, normative law. Second, case material and other documents of practice that tell us something about the implementation of that law. Third, contemporary narratives about apostates that provide some insight into the lived experience of both apostate nuns and those charged with their return and reintegration to monastic life. While some of these original sources have been published—the defining books of the Corpus Iuris (the collection of medieval Church law) for instance— a great deal of other important prescriptive literature, such as consilia, (legal opinions written by academic canonists for use by court or client), and many episcopal registers, episcopal commissary and audience court records, Chancery wits, and proceedings in royal or papal courts have not. All sources, even published chronicles such as Iohannes Busch, Chronicon Windeshemense Und Liber De Reformatione Monasteriorum, are generally untranslated, and with the exception of excerpts from them that appeared in, and are quoted from, secondary scholarship, all translations and paraphrases are mine.

Q: What was something surprising that you found in your research?

Dr. Makowski: Oh, there were so many surprises! For example, many nuns who left their convents later actually sought to return to the vowed life, although the circumstances of an apostate’s secular existence were real considerations in decision-making; motherhood in particular often tipped the balance.  Lucrezia Butti had attempted to recommit herself to religious life after the birth of her son, but left again, for good, soon after.  Battistina, professed nun who had fled her convent of Poor Clares to live for years with, and have children by, a Milanese layman, begged the Sacred Penitentiary for absolution and the opportunity to return to religion only after her children were grown; and it was not until after the death of her son that Sophie of Brunswick reconsidered her resolve to remain in the world.

I was also struck by the variety of reasons for, and means by which, these disaffected nuns became apostates. The prospect of inheriting great wealth by renouncing one’s religious status was a compelling lure for some, but romantic love, lust, or a combination of both, motivated far more professed nuns to become apostates. Some apostates were reluctant renegades set adrift by war and disaster, lapses in judgment, or religious reforms that consigned them to a life much more rigorous than they had ever promised to live. Some broke with the vowed life suddenly, others strayed from it by degrees.

And then there were the legal ambiguities that could trip up an unwary researcher! Relatively lax regulations regarding the admission of male clergy and laymen into cloister confines could result in what was technically referred to as raptus, ravishment, an ambiguous term which was used by scribes and lawmakers to mean both rape (sexual assault) and abduction, forced or consensual.  In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it became part of the formula to initiate a case in civil and criminal courts, but it might just as easily have denoted a nun’s voluntary abandonment of her vows as sexual violence and forceful seizure. Even if an escape plan was hatched by someone other than the apostate herself, collusion can seldom be entirely excluded from the equation.