Dr Chloe Ireton

Chloe Ireton is a Lecturer in the History of Iberia and the Iberian World 1500-1800, with a focus on race, religion, and empire. Chloe comes to UCL from the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her PhD in History. Over the last few years, Chloe has also held institutional affiliations with the Departmento de Historia at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City, and the Area de Historia Modern at the Universidad de Pablo Olavide in Seville, and she has also been a fellow in residence at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Chloe is currently completing a monograph, tentatively titled, Untraceable ideas? Black thought in the early Iberian Atlantic, that explores a world of free and enslaved Africans who engaged in intellectual work and shaped discourses about empire, blackness, and slavery. Hundreds of free black men and women, some of them first generation Africans (former slaves), obtained royal permits to embark on fleets to cross the Atlantic as vassals of the Spanish crown in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Weaving together the world of black vecinos through archival fragments scattered across varied institutions of colonial governance, Untraceable ideas? Black thought in the early Iberian Atlantic explores how free and enslaved black men and women fostered interconnected black spheres through literacy, transoceanic ties, and epistolary networks. They – along with black brotherhoods in port cities – shaped localized meanings of blackness by sponsoring churches, positioning the Catholic Church as historically inclusive of black individuals, and appealing to the crown as black Catholic royal vassals, while also fostering a circulation of knowledge through travel, transoceanic ties, literacy, epistolary networks, and petitions to the crown. The project employs cross-disciplinary research methods that wed intellectual and socio-cultural approaches in order to demonstrate that plural, and often overlapping, ideas about blackness, royal vassalage, the illegitimacy of slavery, and African Christianity coexisted in this period. To that end, the monograph traces the fragments, the webs, and the practices – sometimes written, and sometimes in ephemeral conversations, or through witness statements – and the entanglements of people and ideas between different spaces across the Atlantic.

Chloe has recently written an article titled, “There is no right to enslave between Christians:” Africans’ Freedom Litigation Suits to Define Just War and Just Slavery in the Early Spanish Empire,” which is forthcoming in the Renaissance Quarterly. This article explores how some enslaved black Africans litigated for their freedom in Spanish royal courts in the sixteenth century on the basis that – as Christians ¬– they had been unjustly enslaved in Africa. With a focus on the port cities of Seville and Cartagena, the article explores how freedom litigation suits illuminate how individuals from starkly different social worlds and intellectual milieus ¬– who inhabited the same urban sites – affected and shaped one another’s intellectual landscapes. The article traces how enslaved Africans’ epistemologies of just slavery shaped broader discourses on the just enslavement of Africans in the Spanish empire. In 2017, Chloe published, “They Are Blacks of the Caste of Black Christians”: Old Christian Black Blood in the Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century Iberian Atlantic,” in the Hispanic American Historical Review, which explores how hundreds of Castilian free black men and women obtained royal travel licenses to cross the Atlantic in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as black Old Christians. They settled across the Spanish Indies and developed trades as artisans, traders, sailors, healers, and small business owners, often becoming prominent and wealthy vecinos (residents). Exploring these often obscure and long-invisible biographies of individuals, the article revisits key historiographical debates about race, purity of blood, and vassalage in the early Spanish empire.

Broadly, Chloe's teaching centres on the histories of African, Hispanic, and Lusophone worlds between 1500 and 1800, and explores how these regions contributed to knowledge formation and histories of ideas in Europe and the Americas.

Major publications

  • '"They are Blacks of the Caste of Black Christians": Old Christian Black Blood in the Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century Iberian Atlantic.' Hispanic American Historical Review, 97:4, 2017, pp. 579-612.
  • 'Black Atlantic', Dictionary of American History, Supplement: America in the World, 1776 to the Present, Edward J. Blum, Editor in Chief; Cara L. Burnidge, Emily Conroy-Krutz, and David Kinkela, Associate Editors (Charles Scribner's Sons: 2016).

For a full list of publications, please see Chloe's Iris profile.

Grants and projects

Chloe's research has been supported by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grants, American Historical Association, The John Carter Brown Library, The Leverhulme Trust, Social Science Research Council Andrew W. Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship SSRC-IDRF, The Huntington Library, The Renaissance Society of America, the Conference on Latin American History, and various centers at The University of Texas at Austin, including, The Graduate School, British Studies Program, John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies, the Tereza Lozano Institute of Latin American Studies, and the History Department.


  • Research Module: Black Atlantics in the Global South
  • Advanced Module: Race, Identity and Empire in the Iberian World 1500-1700
  • MA European History, Theory Unit
  • Indios, Africans and Women in the Iberian Empires 1500-1700 (third-year special subject)