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Ulbe Bosma obtained his PhD in history at Leiden University in 1995. From 1993 to 2007 he acted as coordinator of the Sephis programme, sponsoring historical research in the Global South. Since 1997 he is Senior Researcher at the IISH and since 2012 professor of 'International Comparative Social History' at the Free University of Amsterdam. The endowed chair covers empirical research into labour and labour relations, from a comparative social historical and geographical perspective.
He was visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies. His main fields of interest are the histories of labour, international labour migration, and commodity frontiers.
In his most recent monograph The Making of a Periphery (2019), he draws on new archival sources from the colonial period to the present to demonstrate how high demographic growth and a long history of bonded labor relegated Southeast Asia to the margins of the global economy.
In October 2022 Ulbe Bosma and Sven Beckert wrote an article about Commodity Frontiers in Aeon an internet journal with more than one million subscribers: Ever more land and labour, Centuries of capitalism saw the global countryside ruthlessly converted into cheap commodities. But at what cost?
Forthcoming with Harvard University Press (May 2022) is The World of Sugar: How the Sweet Stuff Transformed Our Politics, Health, and Environment over 2,000 Years.