School of History, Classics & Archaeology

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Dr Cassia Roth


Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow


Summary of research interests

  • Latin America
  • Culture
  • Gender
  • Medicine, Science & Technology
  • Politics
  • Society
  • Nineteenth Century
  • Twentieth Century & After

Research interests

I am a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin America with focus on Brazil. I also engage in the history of medicine, feminist theory, and legal studies. In particular, I examine how gender, race, medicine, and the law intersected in the lives of Brazilian women in key moments of political and economic transition: the abolition of slavery, the end of monarchy, the rise of republicanism, and the implementation of populism and fascism.

My first book project (under review with Stanford University Press) is titled A Miscarriage of Justice: Reproduction, Medicine, and the Law in Early Twentieth-Century Brazil. It is the first English-language monograph to explore how women’s reproduction was central to the expansion of the early twentieth-century Brazilian state. My second and current project goes back into the nineteenth century to explore how enslaved women’s reproductive capabilities and actions were central to that country’s demise of slavery.

Current research activities

As a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at HCA, I am working with Professor Diana Paton on a project entitled “Birthing Abolition: Reproduction and the Gradual End of Slavery in Brazil.” This is an interdisciplinary project that analyses how enslaved women’s reproductive trends and practices shaped the gradual abolition of slavery in the middle to large plantation holdings of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1850 (the definitive end of the country’s slave trade) to final abolition in 1888. The project contends that the struggle to end slavery was intimately entangled not only with elite understandings of slave reproduction but also with enslaved women’s own agency.


We examine demographic trends among the enslaved population, elite views of enslaved women’s reproduction, and enslaved women’s own reproductive practices, hypothesizing that enslaved women’s practices of fertility control played an important symbolic role in how elites understood and approached slavery itself. The findings demonstrate that enslaved women’s fertility control, both real and imagined, created the opportunity for abolitionists to implement the legal framework that abolished slavery. In doing so, the project provides historical background to current-day debates on reproductive justice, women’s health, and gender equality.

Research projects

Birthing Abolition: Reproduction and the Gradual End of Slavery in Brazil