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Dr Klaus Richter has secured a £126,000 grant from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung to investigate the fight against the trafficking of Polish women and children during the interwar period.

The project will look at how it linked into the broader international campaign against trafficking and ‘white slavery’, and its contribution to the Polish government’s efforts to form a unified Polish nation state following the end of the First World War, when over 120 years of Prussia, Russia and Austria ruling separate areas of the country ended.

The trafficking of Polish women for sexual exploitation became a global phenomenon in the context of the wave of emigration from Europe to the Americas starting in the mid-19th century. It led to the emergence of Polish anti-trafficking associations before the First World War, and the activity became a target of abolitionist and anti ‘White Slavery’ organisations in the British Empire.

Within the project, a postdoctoral fellow will use a network approach to illuminate the interactions between the interwar Second Republic of Poland as a ‘nationalising state’ and international organisations such as the League of Nations and the London-based ‘International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children’.

The project will fundamentally reinterpret the dynamics of nationalism and internationalism in the interwar period. It will link Polish anti-trafficking policies to the broader international environment, and highlight how international and transnational activism in turn affected the construction of the Second Republic’s state institutions, the negotiation of power between state and society, and the reframing of concepts of a moral, virtuous, Christian Polish nation.