Slave Trade Abolished - History

Slave Trade Abolished - History

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On March 2, 1807, the Congress passed legislation barring the further importation of slaves into the United States. Although the smuggling of slaves into the United States continued until the start of the Civil War, the quantity of slave trade was much reduced.d instead Jefferson followed the route of embargoing foreign trade,

On March 2, 1807, President Jefferson succeeded in convincing Congress to pass a bill barring the further importation of slaves into the United States. The bill levied a fine of $800 on anyone who knowingly purchased an illegally imported slave. In addition, it established a $20,000 fine for equipping any slave ship. One of the most glaring flaws in the law was what happened to a slave brought into the country illegally. The law specified that he or she would be treated according to the law of states. This effectively guaranteed that those slaves brought into the country illegally would remain slaves. It was up to the navy to enforce the law. However, the law was poorly enforced,* and an illegal slave trade continued up until the Civil War.

The Act:

Act of 1807
An Act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eight.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, it shall not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories thereoffrom any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to hold, sell, or dispose of such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, as a slave, or to be held to service or labour. (Importation of slaves into the U. S.forbidden after Jan. 1, 1808. Forfeiture of vessels fitted out for the slave trade after Jan. 1, 1808.)

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That no citizen or citizens of the United States, or any other person, shall, from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eight, for himself, or themselves, or any other person whatsoever, either as master, factor, or owner, build, fit, equip, load or otherwise prepare any ship or vessel, in any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, nor shall cause any ship or vessel to sail from any port or place within the same, for the purpose of procuring any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, to be transported to any port or place whatsoever, within the jurisdiction of the United States, to be held, sold, or disposed of as slaves, or to be held to service or labor; and if any ship or vessel shall be so fitted out for the purpose aforesaid, or shall be caused to sail so as aforesaid, every such ship or vessel, her tackle, apparel, and furniture, shall be forfeited to the United States, and shall be liable to be seized, prosecuted, and condemned in any of the circuit courts or district courts, for the district where the said ship or vessel may be found or seized.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That all and every person so building, fitting out, equipping, loading, or otherwise preparing or sending away, any ship or vessel, knowing or intending that the same shall be employed in such trade or business, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, or any ways aiding or abetting therein, shall severally forfeit and pay twenty thousand dollars, one moiety thereof to the use of the United States, and the other moiety to the use of any person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same to effect.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, If any citizen or citizens of the United States, or any person resident within the jurisdiction of the same, shall, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, take on board, receive or transport from 

any of the coasts or kingdoms of Africa, or from any other foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, in any ship or vessel, for the purpose of selling them in any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States as slaves, or to be held to service or labour, or shall be in any ways aiding or abetting therein, such citizen or citizens, or person, shall severally forfeit and pay five thousand dollars, one moiety thereof to the use of any person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same to effect; and every such ship or vessel in which, such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, shall have been taken on board, received, or transported as aforesaid, her tackle, apparel, and furniture, and the goods and effects which shall be found on board the same, shall be forfeited to the United States, and shall be liable to be seized, prosecuted, and condemned in any of the circuit courts or district courts in the district where the said ship or vessel may be found or seized. And neither the importer, nor any person or persons claiming from or under him, shall hold any right or title whatsoever to any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, nor to the service or labour thereof, who may be imported or brought within the United States, or territories thereof, in violation of this law, but the same shall remain subject to any regulations not contravening the provisions of this act, which the legislatures of the several states or territories at any time hereafter may make, for disposing of any such negro, mulatto, or person of colour. (See notes to act of March 22, 1794, chap. 11, vol. i. 347,348.)

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That if any citizen or citizens of the United States, or any other person resident within the jurisdiction of the same, shall, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, take on board any ship or vessel from any of the coasts or kingdoms of Africa, or from any other foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with intent to sell him. her, or them, for a slave, or slaves, or to be held to service or labour, and shall transport the same to any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, and there sell such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, so transported as aforesaid, for a slave, or to be held to service or labour, every such offender shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and being thereof convicted before any court having competent jurisdiction, shall suffer imprisonment for not more than ten years nor less than five years, and be fined not exceeding ten thousand dollars, nor less than one thousand dollars.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons whatsoever, shall, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, purchase or sell any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, for a slave, or to be held to service or labour, who shall have been imported, or brought from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, or from the dominions of any foreign state, immediately adjoining to the United States, 

into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, after the last day of December, one tbousand eight hundred and seven, knowing at the time of such purchase or sale, such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, was sought within the jurisdiction of the United States, as aforesaid, such purchaser and seller shall severally for fee and pay for every negro, mulatto, or person of colour, so purchased or sold as aforesaid, eight hundred dollars; one moiety thereof to the United States, and the other moiety to the use of any person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same to effect: Provided, that the aforesaid forfeiture shall not extend to the seller or purchaser of any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, who may be sold or disposed of in virtue of any regulation which may hereafter be made by any of the legislatures of the several states in that respect, in pursuance of act, and the constitution of the United States.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That if any ship or vessel shall be found, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, in any river, port, bay, or harbor, or on the high seas within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, or hovering on the coast thereof, having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of colour for the purpose of selling them as slaves, or with intent to land the same, in any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, contrary to the prohibition of this act, every such ship or vessel, together with her tackle, apparel, and furniture. and the goods or effects which shall be found on board the same, shall be forfeited to the use of the United States, and may be seized, prosecuted, and condemned, in any court of the United States, having jurisdiction thereof. And it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, and he is hereby authorized, should he deem it expedient, to cause any of the armed vessels of the United States to be manned and employed to cruise on any part the coast of the United States, or territories thereof, where he may judge attempts will be made to violate the provisions of this act, and to instruct and direct the commanders of armed vessels of the United States, to seize take, and bring into any port of the United States all such ships or vessels, and moreover to seize, take, and bring into any port of the United States all ships or vessels of the United States, wheresoever found on the high seas, contravening the provisions of this act, to be proceeded against, according to law, and the captain, master, or commander of every such ship or vessel, so found and seized as aforesaid, shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be liable to be prosecuted before any court of the United States, having jurisdiction thereof; and being thereof convicted, shall be fined not exceeding ten thousand dollars, and be imprisoned not less than two years, and not exceeding four years. And the proceeds of all ships and vessels, their tackle, apparel, and furniture, and the goods and effects on board of them, which shall be so seized, prosecuted and condemned, shall be divided equally between the United States and the officers and men who shall make such seizure, take, or bring the same into port for condemnation, whether such seizure be made by an armed vessel of the United States, or revenue cutters thereof, and the same shall be distributed in like manner, 

as is provided by law for the distribution of prizes taken from an enemy: Provided, that the officers and men, to be entitled to one half of the proceeds aforesaid, shall safe keep every negro, mulatto, or person of colour, found on board of any ship or vessel so by them seized, taken, or brought into port for condemnation, and shall deliver every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, to such person or persons as shall be appointed by the respective states, to receive the same; and if no such person or persons shall be appointed by the respective states, they shall deliver every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, to the overseers of the poor of the port or place where such ship or vessel may be brought or found, and shall immediately transmit to the governor or chief magistrate of the state an account of their proceedings, together with the number of such negroes, mulattoes, or persons of colour, and a descriptive list of the same, that he may give directions respecting such negroes mulattoes, or persons of colour. (The district courts have jurisdiction under the slave trade acts, to determine who are the actual captors under a state law, made in pursuance of the 4th section of the slave trade act of 1807, and directing the proceeds of the sale of the negroes to be paid, "one moiety for the use of the commanding officer of the capturing vessel." The Josefa Segunda, 10 Wheat. 3l2; 6 Condo Rep. 111. The offence against the laws of the United States under the 7th section of the act of 1897, is not that of importing or bringing into the United States, persons of colour, with intent to hold such persons as slaves, but that of hovering on the coast of the United States with such intent. And although it forfeits the vessel and any goods or effects found on board, it is silent as to disposing of the coloured persons found onboard, any further than to impose a duty upon the officers of the armed vessels who make the capture to keep them safely to be delivered to the overseers of the poor, or the governor of the state, or persons appointed by the respective states to receive them. United States v. Preston, 3 Peters, 57. The persons sold as slaves under an order of the district court of Louisiana, in a case where the decree was afterwards reversed, were illegally sold, and they are freed. Ibid.)

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That no captain, master or commander of any ship or vessel, of less burthen than forty tons, shall, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, take on board and transport any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, to any port or place whatsoever, for the purpose of selling or disposing of the same as a slave, or with intent that the same may be sold or disposed of to be held to service or labour, on penalty of forfeiting for every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, so taken on board and transported, as aforesaid, the sum of eight hundred dollars; one moiety thereof to the use of the United States, and the other moiety to any person or persons who shall sue for, and prosecute the same to effect: Provided however, That nothing in this section shall extend to prohibit the taking on board or transporting on any river, or inland bay of the sea, within the jurisdiction of the United States, any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, (not imported contrary to the provisions of this act) in any vessel or species of craft whatever. 

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That the captain, master, or commander of any ship or vessel of the burthen of forty tons or more, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, sailing coastwise, from any port in the United States, to any port or place within the jurisdiction of the same, having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, for the purpose of transporting them to be used or disposed of as slaves, or to be held to service or labour, shall, previous to the departure of such ship or vessel, make out and subscribe duplicate manifests of every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, on board such ship or vessel, therein specifying the name and sex of each person, their age and stature, as near as may be, and the class to which they respectively belong, whether negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with the name and place of residence of every owner or shipper of the same, and shall deliver such manifests to the collector of the port, if there be one, otherwise to the surveyor, before whom the captain master, or commander, together with the owner or shipper, shall severally swear or affirm to the best of their knowledge and belief, that the persons therein specified were not imported or brought into the United States, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, and that under the laws of the state, they are held to service or labour; whereupon the said collector or surveyor shall certify the same on the said manifests, one of which he shall return to the said captain, master, or commander, with a permit, specifying thereon the number, names, and general description of such persons, and authorizing him to proceed to the port of his destination. And if any ship or vessel, being laden and destined as aforesaid, shall depart from the port where she may then be, without the captain, master, or commander being first made out and subscribed duplicate manifests, of every negro, mulatto, and person of colour, on board such ship or vessel, as aforesaid, and without having previously delivered the same to the said collector or surveyor, and obtained a permit, in manner as herein required, or shall, previous to her arrival at the port of her destination, take on board any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, other than those specified in the manifests, as aforesaid, every such ship or vessel, together with her tackle, apparel and furniture, shall be forfeited to the use of the United States, and may be seized, prosecuted and condemned in any court of the United States, having jurisdiction thereof; and the captain, master, or commander of every such ship or vessel, shall moreover forfeit, for every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, so transported or taken on board, contrary to the provisions of this act, the sum of one thousand dollars, one moiety thereof to the United States, and the other moiety to the use of any person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same to effect.

SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That the captain, master, or commander of every ship or vessel, of the burthen of forty tons or more, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, sailing coastwise, and having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, to sell or dispose of as slaves, or to be held to service or 

labour, and arriving in any port within the jurisdiction of the United States, from any other port within the same, shall, previous to the unloading or putting on shore any of the persons aforesaid, or suffering them to go on shore, deliver to the collector, if there be one, or if not, to the surveyor residing at the port of her arrival, the manifest certified by the collector or surveyor of the port from whence she sailed, as is herein before directed, to the truth of which, before such officer, he shall swear or affirm, and if the collector or surveyor shall be satisfied therewith, he shall thereupon grant a permit for unlading or suffering such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, to be put on shore, and if the captain, master, or commander of any such ship or vessel being laden as aforesaid, shall neglect or refuse to deliver the manifest at the time and in the manner herein directed, or shall land or put on shore any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, for the purpose aforesaid, before he shall have delivered his manifest as aforesaid, and obtained a permit for that purpose, every such captain, master, or commander, shall forfeit and pay ten thousand dollars, one moiety thereof to the United States, the other moiety to the use of any person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same to effect. APPROVED, March 2,1807.

Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade

There are three key arguments to explain the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade: it was ended because it was not making any money anymore, it finished because politicians were successful in changing laws and finally the trade was abolished because the slaves themselves resisted and these revolts became too difficult to manage. Within this unit of inquiry, you should research and analyse each before deciding which you think was the more influential. This is an ideal unit to develop your ability to identify different perspectives of an event. You should consider which people are affected by each of the three arguments above.

The first part of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade was a British law preventing the transportation of slaves in 1807. What questions could you ask to find out more about this event? For example:

  • Why 1807? Why was it not passed earlier?
  • Why Britain?
  • Why did the law only refer to the transportation of slaves and not the sale?
  • Did the law apply to other countries too?
  • Did slave traders obey the law?
  • Who was against the law, who was in favour?
  • Which argument affected the 1807 law the most: economics, the abolitionists or slave revolts?

Timeline of the Abolition of the Slave Trade

1803 – Denmark abolishes the Atlantic Slave Trade but slavery is still permitted.

1807 – Britain also abolishes the trade.

1808 – The USA bans the trade.

1811 – Spain abolishes slavery, including in its colonies, though Cuba rejects ban and continues to deal in slaves.

1813 – Sweden bans slave trading

1814 – The Netherlands bans slave trading

1817 – France bans slave trading, but ban not effective until 1826

1833 – Britain passes Abolition of Slavery Act, ordering gradual abolition of slavery in all British colonies. Plantation owners in the West Indies receive 20 million pounds in compensation

– Great Britain and Spain sign a treaty prohibiting the slave trade

1819 – Portugal abolishes slave trade north of the equator

– Britain places a naval squadron off the West African coast to enforce the ban on slave trading

1823 – Britain’s Anti-Slavery Society formed. Members include William Wilberforce

1846 – Danish governor proclaims emancipation of slaves in Danish West Indies, abolishing slavery

1848 – France abolishes slavery

1851 – Brazil abolishes slave trading

1858 – Portugal abolishes slavery in its colonies, although all slaves are subject to a 20-year apprenticeship


By ending the traffic of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic in 1807, those within the ‘Abolition Society’, such as Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, had achieved an unprecedented feat. Yet it was never their intention to stop there.

Ending the slave trade had prevented the continuation of a profoundly cruel commerce but had brought no change to the condition of enslaved people. As Wilberforce wrote in his Appeal in 1823, “all early abolitionists had declared that the extinction of slavery was their great and ultimate project.”

In the same year that Wilberforce’s Appeal was published, a new ‘Anti-Slavery Society’ was formed. As had been the case in 1787, a great emphasis was placed on using various campaigning tools in order to gain support from the general public in order to influence parliament, as opposed to the traditional methods of backdoor lobbying.

The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840. Image Credit: Benjamin Haydon / Public Domain

Emilio Sanchez: The Unsung Abolitionist

British authorities were among the fiercest opponents of the slave trade. Since the American government largely turned a blind eye to the traffic and remained unwilling to let the Royal Navy intercept American slavers, the British consul in New York, Sir Edward Archibald, took matters into his own hands by hiring a spy. His named was Emilio Sanchez, and he is one of the great unknown abolitionists of American history.

Born in Cuba, Sanchez had immigrated to the United States and become a shipowner and merchant in New York. After an entanglement with members of the Portuguese Company ended badly, he was eager for revenge. He interviewed with Archibald and signed on for 400 pounds a month plus bonuses for each voyage terminated due to his information.

Sanchez put his knowledge of Manhattan’s docks to good use. For three and a half years, he spied on the slave traders, watching their movements and the departures of their ships. He struck up conversation with captains, sailors and outfitters, probing them for information. What was the name of the vessel? Its owner? When would it leave New York? He wrote it all down—often in cypher, a safety precaution𠅏or Consul Archibald.

Archibald sent Sanchez’s intel across the Atlantic Ocean to London and to British cruisers off the African coast. Often it arrived with British ships before slavers had arrived from U.S. ports. Armed with information that the vessels’ true owners were not U.S. citizens, and therefore not entitled to fly the U.S. flag, the Royal Navy struck. In total, Sanchez’s intel ended 30 slaving voyages and prevented some 20,000 captives from enduring the Middle Passage.

The Abolition of Slavery In Britain

On 28th August 1833 a very important act received its Royal Assent. The Slavery Abolition Law would finally be enacted, after years of campaigning, suffering and injustice. This act was a crucial step in a much wider and ongoing process designed to bring an end to the slave trade.

Only a few decades previously, in 1807 another act had been passed which had made it illegal to purchase slaves directly from the African continent. Nevertheless, the practice of slavery remained widespread and legal in the British Caribbean.

The fight to end the slave trade was a long drawn out battle which brought to the surface a host of issues ranging from politics and economics to more social and cultural concerns.

The decision to bring the practice of slavery to an end was a contentious one. Britain had been engaged in slavery since the sixteenth century, with economic prosperity being secured through the use of slave-grown products such as sugar and cotton. The British Empire relied on cultivating products in order to trade in a global market: the use of slaves was paramount to this process.

Slaves cutting the sugar cane, Antigua, 1823

By the late 1700’s, times were changing, social norms were challenged and the stage for revolution in Europe was set. Concerns over equality, humanity and the rights of man gave way to individuals championing the cause of abolishing the antiquated and barbaric practice of slavery.

The campaign in Britain was led by significant Quaker anti-slavery groups who made public their concerns and brought it to the attention of politicians who were in a position to enact real change.
In May 1772 a significant court judgement by Lord Mansfield in the case of James Somerset, who was an enslaved African, versus Charles Stewart, a Customs Officer. In this case, the slave who had been purchased in Boston and then transported with Stewart to England had managed to escape. Unfortunately, he was later recaptured and subsequently imprisoned on a ship bound for Jamaica.

Somerset’s cause was taken up by three godparents, John Marlow, Thomas Walkin and Elizabeth Cade who made an application to the courts to determine whether there was a legitimate reason for his detention.

In May, Lord Mansfield gave his verdict ruling that slaves could not be transported from England against their will. The case therefore gave great impetus to those campaigners such as Granville Sharp who saw the ruling as an example for why slavery would be unsupported by English law.

Nevertheless, the ruling did not advocate abolition of slavery completely. Those backing Somerset argued that colonial laws which permitted slavery were not in conjunction with the common law of Parliament, thus making the practice unlawful. The case in question was still argued very much along legal lines rather than humanitarian or social concerns, however it would mark an important step in a trajectory of events which ultimately culminated in abolition.

The case had gained a great deal of attention amongst the public, so much so that by 1783 a strong anti-slavery movement was being formed. More individual cases such as that of a slave taken to Canada by American loyalists, sparked new legislation in 1793 against slavery, the first of its kind to take place in the British Empire.

William Wilberforce, 1794

Back in Britain, the abolition of slavery was a cause championed by William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament and philanthropist who was one of the most important and influential figures. He was soon joined by likeminded individuals who would bring the matter into the public sphere as well as the political sphere.

Other anti-slavery activists such as Hannah More and Granville Sharp were persuaded to join Wilberforce, which soon led to the foundation of the Anti-Slavery Society.

Key figures within the group included James Eliot, Zachary Macaulay and Henry Thornton who were referred to by many as the Saints and later, the Clapham Sect of which Wilberforce became the accepted leader.

On 13th March 1787 during a dinner involving several important figures amongst the Clapham Sect community, Wilberforce agreed to bring the issue to parliament.

Wilberforce would subsequently give many speeches in the House of Commons which included twelve motions condemning the slave trade. Whilst his cause described the appalling conditions experienced by slaves which were in direct opposition to his Christian beliefs, he did not advocate a total abolition of the trade. At this point, however, the biggest obstacle was not the ins and outs of the motion but parliament itself which continued to stall on the matter.

By 1807, with slavery garnering great public attention as well as in the courts, Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act. This was a momentous step, however it still was not the end goal as it simply outlawed the trade of slaves but not slavery itself.

Once enacted, the legislation worked through the imposition of fines which sadly did little to deter slave owners and traders who had great financial incentives in ensuring that the practice continued. With lucrative gains to be made, trafficking between Caribbean Islands would persist for several years. By 1811, a new law would help to curb this practice somewhat with the introduction of Slave Trade Felony Act which made slavery a felony.

The Royal Navy was also called in to assist in the implementation through the establishment of the West African Squadron which patrolled the coast. Between 1808 and 1860 it successfully freed 150,000 Africans bound for a life of enslavement. However, there was still a long way to go.

One often overlooked factor in bringing an end to the practice of the slave trade was the role played by those already enslaved. A growing resistance movement was developing amongst the slaves themselves, so much so that the French colony of St Domingue had been seized by the slaves themselves in a dramatic uprising leading to the establishment of Haiti.

Depiction of the Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres, 23rd February 1802, during the slave revolt in St Domingue (Haiti).

This was an era for enacting great social change, the Age of Reason, ushered in by the Enlightenment which brought together philosophies which catapulted social injustices to the forefront of people’s minds. Europe was experiencing great upheaval: the French Revolution had brought with it ideas of the equal rights of man and challenged the previously accepted social hierarchies.

The impact of this new European social conscience and self-awareness also impacted enslaved communities who had always put up resistance but now felt emboldened to claim their rights. Toussaint Louverture leading the revolt in Haiti was not the only example of such a stirring of feelings revolts in other locations followed including Barbados in 1816, Demerara in 1822 and Jamaica in 1831.

The Baptist War, as it became known, in Jamaica originated with a peaceful strike led by the Baptist Minister Samuel Sharpe, however it was brutally suppressed which led to loss of life and property. Such was the extent of the violence that the British Parliament was forced to hold two inquiries that would make important inroads in establishing the Slavery Abolition Act a year later.

Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society

Meanwhile, the Anti-Slavery Society had its first meeting back in the UK which helped to bring together Quakers and Anglicans. As part of this group, a range of campaigns involving meetings, posters and speeches were arranged, helping to get the word out and draw attention to the issue. This would ultimately prove successful as it brought together a range of people who rallied behind the cause.

By 26th July 1833, the wheels were in motion for a new piece of legislation to be passed, however sadly William Wilberforce would die only three days later.

As part of the act, slavery was abolished in most British colonies which resulted in around 800,000 slaves being freed in the Caribbean as well as South Africa and a small amount in Canada. The law took effect on 1st August 1834 and put into practice a transitional phase which included reassigning roles of slaves as “apprentices” which was later brought to an end in 1840.

Sadly, in practical terms the act did not seek to include territories “in the possession of the East India Company, or Ceylon, or Saint Helena”. By 1843 these conditions were lifted. A longer process however ensued which not only included freeing slaves but also finding a way to compensate the slave owners for loss of investment.

The British government sought around £20 million to pay for the loss of slaves, many of those in receipt of this compensation were from the higher echelons of society.

Meanwhile whilst the apprenticeships were enforced, peaceful protests by those affected would continue until their freedom was secured. By 1st August 1838 this was finally achieved with full legal emancipation granted.

The abolition of slavery in the British Empire thus brought in a new era of change in politics, economics and society. The movement towards abolition had been an arduous journey and in the end many factors played a significant role in ending the slave trade.

Key individuals both in Britain and overseas, parliamentary figures, enslaved communities, religious figures and people who felt the cause was worth fighting for all helped to bring about a seismic shift in social awareness and conscience.

Thus, the trajectory of events leading to the abolition of slavery remain a significant chapter in British and global history, with important lessons for humanity as a whole.

Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.

Abolition of Slavery Timeline

The first anti-slavery tract is written by John Woolman, a Quaker from New Jersey.

The Quakers of England hold their annual meeting and for the first time, denounce England's role in the Slave Trade.

William Wilberforce, the MP of Hull, joins the abolitionists and over a period of time becomes the most influential leader of England's movement against slavery.

Using his parliamentary seat, Wilberforce brings up the issue of slavery in Parliament and urges to change English law for its pro-slavery attitude.

America abolishes trading of slaves. Like England, owning and controlling slaves is still legal. England ends its slave trade and urges other European nations to follow through.

England starts negotiations with Portugal to end the slave trade.

At the Congress of Vienna, England urges Spain, France and the Netherlands to stop slave trading.

In a step to counter illegal trading, Wilberforce introduces and passes a Slave Registration Act, according to which, slave owners must create a bi-yearly account of the slaves they own. The central registry is set up in London.

France and Netherlands abolish slave trade from its shores.

Mexico abolishes slavery.

Greece abolishes slavery.

Uruguay declares abolition of slavery.

The nations of France and Denmark ban trading and owning of slaves. Holland, Spain, and Argentina follow suit in 1853, 1863 and 1870 respectively.

The Emancipation Proclamation is passed, freeing slaves who live in the Confederate states in America.

The Thirteenth Amendment
is added to the U.S. Constitution which legitimately bans slavery and bonded or forced labor throughout the American nation.

Cuba puts a complete ban on slavery.

Brazil bans slavery.

China declares that effective 31st January, 1910, slavery will be abolished.

Siam (modern-day Thailand) abolishes slavery.

Afghanistan abolishes slavery. Iraq follows suit a year later.


Multiple forms of slavery and servitude have existed throughout African history, and were shaped by indigenous practices of slavery as well as the Roman institution of slavery [12] (and the later Christian views on slavery), the Islamic institutions of slavery via the Muslim slave trade, and eventually the Atlantic slave trade. [13] [4] Slavery was a part of the economic structure of African societies for many centuries, although the extent varied. [14] [4] Ibn Battuta, who visited the ancient kingdom of Mali in the mid-14th century, recounts that the local inhabitants vied with each other in the number of slaves and servants they had, and was himself given a slave boy as a "hospitality gift." [15] In sub-Saharan Africa, the slave relationships were often complex, with rights and freedoms given to individuals held in slavery and restrictions on sale and treatment by their masters. [16] Many communities had hierarchies between different types of slaves: for example, differentiating between those who had been born into slavery and those who had been captured through war. [17]

Travels in the Interior of Africa, Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior of Africa v. II, Chapter XXII – War and Slavery.

The forms of slavery in Africa were closely related to kinship structures. [18] In many African communities, where land could not be owned, enslavement of individuals was used as a means to increase the influence a person had and expand connections. [19] This made slaves a permanent part of a master's lineage, and the children of slaves could become closely connected with the larger family ties. [20] [4] Children of slaves born into families could be integrated into the master's kinship group and rise to prominent positions within society, even to the level of chief in some instances. [17] However, stigma often remained attached, and there could be strict separations between slave members of a kinship group and those related to the master. [19]

Chattel slavery Edit

Chattel slavery is a specific servitude relationship where the slave is treated as the property of the owner. [21] As such, the owner is free to sell, trade, or treat the slave as he would other pieces of property, and the children of the slave often are retained as the property of the master. [22] There is evidence of long histories of chattel slavery in the Nile River valley, much of the Sahel and North Africa. Evidence is incomplete about the extent and practices of chattel slavery throughout much of the rest of the continent prior to written records by Arab or European traders, but it is thought to have been common and widely abusive. [22] [23]

Domestic service Edit

Many slave relationships in Africa revolved around domestic slavery, where slaves would work primarily in the house of the master, but retain some freedoms. [24] Domestic slaves could be considered part of the master's household and would not be sold to others without extreme cause. [25] The slaves could own the profits from their labour (whether in land or in products), and could marry and pass the land on to their children in many cases. [17] [26]

Pawnship Edit

Pawnship, or debt bondage slavery, involves the use of people as collateral to secure the repayment of debt. [27] Slave labour is performed by the debtor, or a relative of the debtor (usually a child). [28] Pawnship was a common form of collateral in West Africa. [29] It involved the pledge of a person or a member of that person's family, to serve another person providing credit. [30] Pawnship was related to, yet distinct from, slavery in most conceptualizations, because the arrangement could include limited, specific terms of service to be provided, [31] and because kinship ties would protect the person from being sold into slavery. [31] Pawnship was a common practice throughout West Africa prior to European contact, including among the Akan people, the Ewe people, the Ga people, the Yoruba people, and the Edo people [32] (in modified forms, it also existed among the Efik people, the Igbo people, the Ijaw people, and the Fon people). [33] [34] [35]

Military slavery Edit

Military slavery involved the acquisition and training of conscripted military units which would retain the identity of military slaves even after their service. [36] Slave soldier groups would be run by a Patron, who could be the head of a government or an independent warlord, and who would send his troops out for money and his own political interests. [36]

This was most significant in the Nile valley (primarily in Sudan and Uganda), with slave military units organized by various Islamic authorities, [36] and with the war chiefs of Western Africa. [37] The military units in Sudan were formed in the 1800s through large-scale military raiding in the area which is currently the countries of Sudan and South Sudan. [36]

Moreover, a considerable number of the men born between 1800 and 1849 in West African regions (today Ghana and Burkina Faso) were abducted as slaves to serve in the army in Dutch Indonesia. [38] Interestingly, soldiers were on average 3 cm taller than other West African population. [39] Furthermore, data showed, West Africans were shorter than North Europeans but of almost equal height to South Europeans. [40] This was mainly related to the quality of the nutrition and healthcare. [41]

Slaves for sacrifice Edit

Human sacrifice was common in West African states up to and during the 19th century. Although archaeological evidence is not clear on the issue prior to European contact, in those societies that practiced human sacrifice, slaves became the most prominent victims. [4]

The Annual customs of Dahomey were the most notorious example of human sacrifice of slaves, where 500 prisoners would be sacrificed. Sacrifices were carried out all along the West African coast and further inland. Sacrifices were common in the Benin Empire, in what is now Ghana, and in the small independent states in what is now southern Nigeria. In the Ashanti Region, human sacrifice was often combined with capital punishment. [42] [43] [44]

Local slave trade Edit

Many nations such as the Bono State, Ashanti of present-day Ghana and the Yoruba of present-day Nigeria were involved in slave-trading. [45] Groups such as the Imbangala of Angola and the Nyamwezi of Tanzania would serve as intermediaries or roving bands, waging war on African states to capture people for export as slaves. [46] Historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University have estimated that of the Africans captured and then sold as slaves to the New World in the Atlantic slave trade, [47] around 90% were enslaved by fellow Africans who sold them to European traders. [48] Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard Chair of African and African American Studies, has stated that "without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, [49] the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred." [48]

The entire Bubi ethnic group descends from escaped intertribal slaves owned by various ancient West-central African ethnic groups. [50]

Like most other regions of the world, slavery and forced labour existed in many kingdoms and societies of Africa for hundreds of years. [51] [16] According to Ugo Kwokeji, early European reports of slavery throughout Africa in the 1600s are unreliable because they often conflated various forms of servitude as equal to chattel slavery. [52]

The best evidence of slave practices in Africa come from the major kingdoms, particularly along the coast, and there is little evidence of widespread slavery practices in stateless societies. [4] [16] [17] Slave trading was mostly secondary to other trade relationships however, there is evidence of a trans-Saharan slave trade route from Roman times which persisted in the area after the fall of the Roman Empire. [22] However, kinship structures and rights provided to slaves (except those captured in war) appears to have limited the scope of slave trading before the start of the trans-Saharan slave trade, Indian Ocean slave trade and the Atlantic slave trade. [16]

North Africa Edit

Slavery in northern Africa dates back to ancient Egypt. The New Kingdom (1558–1080 BC) brought in large numbers of slaves as prisoners of war up the Nile valley and used them for domestic and supervised labour. [53] [54] Ptolemaic Egypt (305 BC–30 BC) used both land and sea routes to bring slaves in. [55] [56]

Chattel slavery had been legal and widespread throughout North Africa when the region was controlled by the Roman Empire (145 BC – ca. 430 AD), and by the Eastern Romans from 533 to 695). [58] A slave trade bringing Saharans through the desert to North Africa, [59] which existed in Roman times, continued and documentary evidence in the Nile Valley shows it to have been regulated there by treaty. [22] As the Roman republic expanded, it enslaved defeated enemies and Roman conquests in Africa were no exception. [60] For example, Orosius records that Rome enslaved 27,000 people from North Africa in 256 BC. [61] Piracy became an important source of slaves for the Roman Empire and in the 5th century AD pirates would raid coastal North African villages and enslave the captured. [62] Chattel slavery persisted after the fall of the Roman Empire in the largely Christian communities of the region. [63] After the Islamic expansion into most of the region because of the trade expansion across the Sahara, [64] the practices continued and eventually, the assimilative form of slavery spread to major societies on the southern end of the Sahara (such as Mali, Songhai, and Ghana). [65] [4] The medieval slave trade in Europe was mainly to the East and South: the Christian Byzantine Empire and the Muslim World were the destinations, Central and Eastern Europe an important source of slaves. [66] [67] Slavery in medieval Europe was so widespread that the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly prohibited it—or at least the export of Christian slaves to non-Christian lands was prohibited at, for example, the Council of Koblenz in 922, the Council of London in 1102, and the Council of Armagh in 1171. [68] Because of religious constraints, the slave trade was carried out in parts of Europe by Iberian Jews (known as Radhanites) who were able to transfer slaves from pagan Central Europe through Christian Western Europe to Muslim countries in Al-Andalus and Africa. [69] [70]

The Mamluks were slave soldiers who converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid Sultans during the Middle Ages. The first Mamluks served the Abbasid caliphs in 9th century Baghdad. [71] Over time, they became a powerful military caste, and on more than one occasion they seized power for themselves, for example, ruling Egypt from 1250 to 1517. [72] From 1250 Egypt had been ruled by the Bahri dynasty of Kipchak Turk origin. [73] White enslaved people from the Caucasus served in the army and formed an elite corps of troops, eventually revolting in Egypt to form the Burgi dynasty. [74] According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. [75] [76] However, to extrapolate his numbers, Davis assumes the number of European slaves captured by Barbary pirates were constant for a 250-year period, stating:

"There are no records of how many men, women and children were enslaved, but it is possible to calculate roughly the number of fresh captives that would have been needed to keep populations steady and replace those slaves who died, escaped, were ransomed, or converted to Islam. On this basis, it is thought that around 8,500 new slaves were needed annually to replenish numbers - about 850,000 captives over the century from 1580 to 1680. By extension, for the 250 years between 1530 and 1780, the figure could easily have been as high as 1,250,000." [77]

Davis' numbers have been disputed by other historians, such as David Earle, who cautions that the true picture of European slaves is clouded by the fact the corsairs also seized non-Christian whites from eastern Europe and black people from West Africa. [77]

In addition, the number of slaves traded was hyperactive, with exaggerated estimates relying on peak years to calculate averages for entire centuries, or millennia. [78] [79] Hence, there were wide fluctuations year-to-year, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, given slave imports, and also given the fact that, prior to the 1840s, there are no consistent records. [80] Middle East expert John Wright cautions that modern estimates are based on back-calculations from human observation. [81]

Such observations, across the late 1500s and early 1600s observers, estimate that around 35,000 European Christian slaves held throughout this period on the Barbary Coast, across Tripoli, Tunis, but mostly in Algiers. [82] The majority were sailors (particularly those who were English), taken with their ships, but others were fishermen and coastal villagers. However, most of these captives were people from lands close to Africa, particularly Spain and Italy. [83]

The coastal villages and towns of Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Mediterranean islands were frequently attacked by the pirates, and long stretches of the Italian and Spanish coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants [84] after 1600 Barbary pirates occasionally entered the Atlantic and struck as far north as Iceland. [85] The most famous corsairs were the Ottoman Barbarossa ("Redbeard"), and his older brother Oruç, Turgut Reis (known as Dragut in the West), Kurtoğlu (known as Curtogoli in the West), Kemal Reis, Salih Reis, and Koca Murat Reis. [76] [86]

In 1544, Hayreddin Barbarossa captured Ischia, taking 4,000 prisoners in the process, and deported to slavery some 9,000 inhabitants of Lipari, almost the entire population. [87] In 1551, Dragut enslaved the entire population of the Maltese island Gozo, between 5,000 and 6,000, sending them to Libya. When pirates sacked Vieste in southern Italy in 1554 they took an estimated 7,000 slaves. In 1555, Turgut Reis sailed to Corsica and ransacked Bastia, taking 6,000 prisoners. [88] In 1558 Barbary corsairs captured the town of Ciutadella, destroyed it, slaughtered the inhabitants, and carried off 3,000 survivors to Istanbul as slaves. [89] In 1563 Turgut Reis landed at the shores of the province of Granada, Spain, and captured the coastal settlements in the area like Almuñécar, along with 4,000 prisoners. Barbary pirates frequently attacked the Balearic islands, resulting in many coastal watchtowers and fortified churches being erected. The threat was so severe that Formentera became uninhabited. [90] [91]

Early modern sources are full of descriptions of the sufferings of Christian galley slaves of the Barbary corsairs:

Those who have not seen a galley at sea, especially in chasing or being chased, cannot well conceive the shock such a spectacle must give to a heart capable of the least tincture of commiseration. To behold ranks and files of half-naked, half-starved, half-tanned meagre wretches, chained to a plank, from whence they remove not for months together (commonly half a year), urged on, even beyond human strength, with cruel and repeated blows on their bare flesh. [92]

As late as 1798, the islet near Sardinia was attacked by the Tunisians and over 900 inhabitants were taken away as slaves.

Sahrawi-Moorish society in Northwest Africa was traditionally (and still is, to some extent) stratified into several tribal castes, [93] with the Hassane warrior tribes ruling and extracting tribute – horma – from the subservient Berber-descended znaga tribes. [94] Below them ranked servile groups known as Haratin, a black population. [95]

Enslaved Sub-Saharan Africans were also transported across North Africa into Arabia to do agricultural work because of their resistance to malaria that plagued the Arabia and North Africa at the time of early enslavement. [96] Sub-Saharan Africans were able to endure the malaria-infested lands they were transported to, which is why North Africans were not transported despite their close proximity to Arabia and its surrounding lands. [97]

Horn of Africa Edit

In the Horn of Africa, the Christian kings of the Ethiopian Empire often exported pagan Nilotic slaves from their western borderlands, or from newly conquered or reconquered lowland territories. [98] [99] The Somali and Afar Muslim sultanates, such as the medieval Adal Sultanate, through their ports also traded Zanj (Bantu) slaves who were captured from the hinterland. [100] [101]

Slavery, as practiced in Ethiopia, was essentially domestic and was geared more towards women this was the trend for most of Africa as well. [102] Women were transported across the Sahara, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean trade more than men. [103] [104] Enslaved people served in the houses of their masters or mistresses, and were not employed to any significant extent for productive purpose. [105] The enslaved were regarded as second-class members of their owners' family. [106] The first attempt to abolish slavery in Ethiopia was made by Emperor Tewodros II (r. 1855–68), [107] although the slave trade was not abolished legally until 1923 with Ethiopia's ascension to the League of Nations. [108] Anti-Slavery Society estimated there were 2 million slaves in the early 1930s, out of an estimated population of between 8 and 16 million. [109] [110] Slavery continued in Ethiopia until the Italian invasion in October 1935, when the institution was abolished by order of the Italian occupying forces. [111] In response to pressure by Western Allies of World War II, Ethiopia officially abolished slavery and involuntary servitude after having regained its independence in 1942. [112] [113] On 26 August 1942, Haile Selassie issued a proclamation outlawing slavery. [114]

In Somali territories, slaves were purchased in the slave market exclusively to do work on plantation grounds. [115] In terms of legal considerations, the customs regarding the treatment of Bantu slaves were established by the decree of Sultans and local administrative delegates. [116] Additionally, freedom for these plantation slaves was also often acquired through eventual emancipation, escape, and ransom. [115]

Central Africa Edit

Slaves were transported since antiquity along trade routes crossing the Sahara. [117]

Oral tradition recounts slavery existing in the Kingdom of Kongo from the time of its formation with Lukeni lua Nimi enslaving the Mwene Kabunga whom he conquered to establish the kingdom. [118] Early Portuguese writings show that the Kingdom did have slavery before contact, but that they were primarily war captives from the Kingdom of Ndongo. [118] [119]

Slavery was common along the Upper Congo River, and in the second half of the 18th century the region became a major source of slaves for the Atlantic Slave Trade, [120] when high slave prices on the coast made long-distance slave trading profitable. [121] When the Atlantic trade came to an end, the prices of slaves dropped dramatically, and the regional slave trade grew, dominated by Bobangi traders. [122] The Bobangi also purchased a large number of slaves with profits from selling ivory, who they used to populate their villages. [123] A distinction was made between two different types of slaves in this region slaves who had been sold by their kin group, typically as a result of undesirable behavior such as adultery, were unlikely to attempt to flee. [124] In addition to those considered socially undesirable, the sale of children was also common in times of famine. [125] Slaves who were captured, however, were likely to attempt to escape and had to be moved hundreds of kilometers from their homes as a safeguard against this. [126] [127]

The slave trade had a profound impact on this region of Central Africa, completely reshaping various aspects of society. [128] For instance, the slave trade helped to create a robust regional trade network for the foodstuffs and crafted goods of small producers along the river. [3] As the transport of only a few slaves in a canoe was sufficient to cover the cost of a trip and still make a profit, [129] traders could fill any unused space on their canoes with other goods and transport them long distances without a significant markup on price. [130] While the large profits from the Congo River slave trade only went to a small number of traders, this aspect of the trade provided some benefit to local producers and consumers. [131]

West Africa Edit

Various forms of slavery were practiced in diverse ways in different communities of West Africa prior to European trade. [8] [51] Even though slavery did exist, it was not nearly as prevalent within most West African societies that were not Islamic before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. [132] [133] [134] The prerequisites for slave societies to exist weren't present in West Africa prior to the Atlantic slave trade considering the small market sizes and the lack of a division of labour. [3] [133] Most West African societies were formed in Kinship units which would make slavery a rather marginal part of the production process within them. [135] [4] Slaves within Kinship-based societies would have had almost the same roles that free members had. [136] [4] Martin Klein has said that before the Atlantic trade, slaves in Western Sudan “made up a small part of the population, lived within the household, worked alongside free members of the household, and participated in a network of face-to-face links.” [137] [133] With the development of the trans-Saharan slave trade and the economies of gold in the western Sahel, a number of the major states became organized around the slave trade, including the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire, the Bono State and Songhai Empire. [138] [139] However, other communities in West Africa largely resisted the slave trade. [128] The Jola refused to participate in the slave trade up into the end of the seventeenth century, and didn't use slave labour within their own communities until the nineteenth century. [140] The Kru and Baga also fought against the slave trade. [141] The Mossi Kingdoms tried to take over key sites in the trans-Saharan trade and, when these efforts failed, the Mossi became defenders against slave raiding by the powerful states of the western Sahel. [142] The Mossi would eventually enter the slave trade in the 1800s with the Atlantic slave trade being the main market. [122] [139]

Senegal was a catalyst for slave trade, and from the Homann Heirs map figure shown, shows a starting point for migration and a firm port of trade. [143] The culture of the Gold Coast was based largely on the power that individuals held, rather than the land cultivated by a family. [144] Western Africa, and specifically places like Senegal, were able to arrive at the development of slavery through analyzing the aristocratic advantages of slavery and what would best suit the region. [145] This sort of governing that used "political tool" of discerning the different labours and methods of assimilative slavery. [146] The domestic and agricultural labour became more evidently primary in Western Africa due to slaves being regarded as these "political tools" of access and status. [147] Slaves often had more wives than their owners, and this boosted the class of their owners. [148] Slaves were not all used for the same purpose. European colonizing countries were participating in the trade to suit the economic needs of their countries. [149] The parallel of "Moorish" traders found in the desert compared to the Portuguese traders that were not as established pointed out the differences in uses of slaves at this point, and where they were headed in the trade. [150]

Historian Walter Rodney identified no slavery or significant domestic servitude in early European accounts on the Upper Guinea region [17] and I. A. Akinjogbin contends that European accounts reveal that the slave trade was not a major activity along the coast controlled by the Yoruba people and Aja people before Europeans arrived. [151] In a paper read to the Ethnological Society of London in 1866, the viceroy of Lokoja Mr T. Valentine Robins, who in 1864 accompanied an expedition up the River Niger aboard HMS Investigator, described slavery in the region:

Upon slavery Mr Robins remarked that it was not what people in England thought it to be. It means, as continually found in this part of Africa, belonging to a family group-there is no compulsory labour, the owner and the slave work together, eat like food, wear like clothing and sleep in the same huts. Some slaves have more wives than their masters. It gives protection to the slaves and everything necessary for their subsistence - food and clothing. A free man is worse off than a slave he cannot claim his food from anyone. [152]

With the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade, demand for slavery in West Africa increased and a number of states became centered on the slave trade and domestic slavery increased dramatically. [153] Hugh Clapperton in 1824 believed that half the population of Kano were enslaved people. [154]

In the Senegambia region, between 1300 and 1900, close to one-third of the population was enslaved. In early Islamic states of the western Sahel, including Ghana (750–1076), Mali (1235–1645), Segou (1712–1861), and Songhai (1275–1591), about a third of the population were enslaved. In Sierra Leone in the 19th century about half of the population consisted of enslaved people. Among the Vai people, during the 19th century, three quarters of people were slaves. In the 19th century at least half the population was enslaved among the Duala of the Cameroon and other peoples of the lower Niger, the Kongo, and the Kasanje kingdom and Chokwe of Angola. Among the Ashanti and Yoruba a third of the population consisted of enslaved people. The population of the Kanem (1600–1800) was about one-third enslaved. It was perhaps 40% in Bornu (1580–1890). Between 1750 and 1900 from one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of enslaved people. The population of the largest Fulani state, Sokoto, was at least half-enslaved in the 19th century. Among the Adrar 15 percent of people were enslaved, and 75 percent of the Gurma were enslaved. [155] Slavery was extremely common among the Tuareg peoples and many still hold slaves today. [156] [157]

When British rule was first imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate and the surrounding areas in northern Nigeria at the turn of the 20th century, approximately 2 million to 2.5 million people there were enslaved. [158] Slavery in northern Nigeria was finally outlawed in 1936. [159]

African Great Lakes Edit

With sea trade from the eastern African Great Lakes region to Persia, China, and India during the first millennium AD, slaves are mentioned as a commodity of secondary importance to gold and ivory. [160] When mentioned, the slave trade appears to be of a small-scale and mostly involves slave raiding of women and children along the islands of Kilwa Kisiwani, Madagascar, and Pemba. [161] In places such as Uganda, the experience for women in slavery was different than that of customary slavery practices at the time. The roles assumed were based on gender and position within the society [162] First one must make the distinction in Ugandan slavery of peasants and slaves. Researchers Shane Doyle and Henri Médard assert the distinction with the following:

"Peasants were rewarded for valour in battle by the present of slaves by the lord or chief for whom they had fought. They could be given slaves by relatives who had been promoted to the rank of chiefs, and they could inherit slaves from their fathers. [163] There were the abanyage (those pillaged or stolen in war) as well as the abagule (those bought). [164] All these came under the category of abenvumu or true slaves, that is to say people not free in any sense. [165] [166] In a superior position were the young Ganda given by their maternal uncles into slavery (or pawnship), usually in lieu of debts. Besides such slaves both chiefs and king were served by sons of well to do men who wanted to please them and attract favour for themselves or their children. [167] [168] These were the abasige and formed a big addition to a noble household. All these different classes of dependents in a household were classed as Medard & Doyle abaddu (male servants) or abazana (female servants) whether they were slave or free-born.(175)" [169]

In the Great Lakes region of Africa (around present-day Uganda), linguistic evidence shows the existence of slavery through war capture, trade, and pawning going back hundreds of years however, these forms, particularly pawning, appear to have increased significantly in the 18th and 19th centuries. [170] [171] These slaves were considered to be more trustworthy than those from the Gold Coast. They were regarded with more prestige because of the training they responded to. [172]

The language for slaves in the Great Lakes region varied. [173] This region of water made it easy for capture of slaves and transport. Captive, refugee, slave, peasant were all used in order to describe those in the trade. [174] The distinction was made by where and for what purpose they would be utilized for. Methods like pillage, plunder, and capture were all semantics common in this region to depict the trade. [175]

Historians Campbell and Alpers argue that there were a host of different categories of labour in Southeast Africa and that the distinction between slave and free individuals was not particularly relevant in most societies. [176] [177] However, with increasing international trade in the 18th and 19th century, Southeast Africa began to be involved significantly in the Atlantic slave trade for example, with the king of Kilwa island signing a treaty with a French merchant in 1776 for the delivery of 1,000 slaves per year. [178] [179]

At about the same time, merchants from Oman, India, and Southeast Africa began establishing plantations along the coasts and on the islands, [180] To provide workers on these plantations, slave raiding and slave holding became increasingly important in the region and slave traders (most notably Tippu Tip) became prominent in the political environment of the region. [181] [179] The Southeast African trade reached its height in the early decades of the 1800s with up to 30,000 slaves sold per year. However, slavery never became a significant part of the domestic economies except in Sultanate of Zanzibar where plantations and agricultural slavery were maintained. [153] Author and historian Timothy Insoll wrote: "Figures record the exporting of 718,000 slaves from the Swahili coast during the 19th century, and the retention of 769,000 on the coast." [182] [183] At various times, between 65 and 90 percent of Zanzibar was enslaved. Along the Kenya coast, 90 percent of the population was enslaved, while half of Madagascar's population was enslaved. [184] [185]

Slave relationships in Africa have been transformed through four large-scale processes: the trans-Saharan slave trade, the Indian Ocean slave trade the Atlantic slave trade, and the slave emancipation policies and movements in the 19th and 20th centuries. [186] Each of these processes significantly changed the forms, level, and economics of slavery in Africa. [4]

Slave practices in Africa were used during different periods to justify specific forms of European engagement with the peoples of Africa. [187] Eighteenth century writers in Europe claimed that slavery in Africa was quite brutal in order to justify the Atlantic slave trade. [188] Later writers used similar arguments to justify intervention and eventual colonization by European powers to end slavery in Africa. [189]

Africans knew of the harsh slavery that awaited slaves in the New World. [190] Many elite Africans visited Europe on slave ships following the prevailing winds through the New World. [47] One example of this occurred when Antonio Manuel, Kongo’s ambassador to the Vatican, went to Europe in 1604, stopping first in Bahia, Brazil, where he arranged to free a countryman who had been wrongfully enslaved. [191] African monarchs also sent their children along these same slave routes to be educated in Europe, and thousands of former slaves eventually returned to settle Liberia and Sierra Leone. [192] [48]

Trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean trade Edit

Early records of trans-Saharan slave trade come from ancient Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC. [193] [194] The Garamentes were by Herodotus recorded to engage in the trans-Saharan slave trade were they enslaved cave-dwelling Ethiopians or Troglodytae. The Garamentes relied heavily on labour from sub-Saharan Africa, in the shape of slaves, [195] they used slaves in their own communities to construct and maintain underground irrigation systems known to Berbers as foggara. [196]

In the early Roman Empire, the city of Lepcis established a slave market to buy and sell slaves from the African interior. [193] The empire imposed customs tax on the trade of slaves. [193] In 5th century AD, Roman Carthage was trading in black slaves brought across the Sahara. [194] Black slaves seem to have been valued in the Mediterranean as household slaves for their exotic appearance. [194] Some historians argue that the scale of slave trade in this period may have been higher than medieval times due to high demand of slaves in the Roman Empire. [194]

Slave trading in the Indian Ocean goes back to 2500 BCE. [197] Ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Indians and Persians all traded slaves on small scale across the Indian Ocean (and sometimes the Red Sea). [198] Slave trading in the Red Sea around the time of Alexander the Great is described by Agatharchides. [198] Strabo's Geographica (completed after 23 CE) mentions Greeks from Egypt trading slaves at the port of Adulis and other ports on the Somali coast. [199] Pliny the Elder's Natural History (published in 77 CE) also describes Indian Ocean slave trading. [198] In the 1st century CE, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea advised of slave trading opportunities in the region, particularly in the trading of "beautiful girls for concubinage." [198] According to this manual, slaves were exported from Omana (likely near modern-day Oman) and Kanê to the west coast of India. [198] The ancient Indian Ocean slave trade was enabled by building boats capable of carrying large numbers of human beings in the Persian Gulf using wood imported from India. These shipbuilding activities go back to Babylonian and Achaemenid times. [200]

After the involvement of the Byzantine Empire and Sassanian Empire in slave trading in the 1st century, it became a major enterprise. [198] Cosmas Indicopleustes wrote in his Christian Topography (550 CE) that slaves captured in Ethiopia would be imported into Byzantine Egypt via the Red Sea. [199] He also mentioned the import of eunuchs by the Byzantines from Mesopotamia and India. [199] After the 1st century, the export of black Africans became a "constant factor". [200] Under the Sassanians, Indian Ocean trade was used not just to transport slaves, but also scholars and merchants. [198]

The enslavement of Africans for eastern markets started before 7th century but remained at low levels until 1750. [201] The trade volume peaked around 1850 but would largely have ended around 1900. [201] Muslim participation in the slave trade started in the eighth and ninth centuries AD, beginning with small-scale movement of people largely from the eastern Great Lakes region and the Sahel. [202] Islamic law allowed slavery, but prohibited slavery involving other pre-existing Muslims as a result, the main target for slavery were the people who lived in the frontier areas of Islam in Africa. [22] The trade of slaves across the Sahara and across the Indian Ocean also has a long history beginning with the control of sea routes by Afro-Arab traders in the ninth century. [203] It is estimated that, at that time, a few thousand enslaved people were taken each year from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean coast. [204] They were sold throughout the Middle East. [205] [206] This trade accelerated as superior ships led to more trade and greater demand for labour on plantations in the region. [207] Eventually, tens of thousands per year were being taken. [208] On the Swahili Coast, the Afro-Arab slavers captured Bantu peoples from the interior and brought them to the littoral. [209] [210] There, the slaves gradually assimilated in the rural areas, particularly on the Unguja and Pemba islands. [209]

This changed the slave relationships by creating new forms of employment by slaves (as eunuchs to guard harems, and in military units) and creating conditions for freedom (namely conversion—although it would only free a slave's children). [4] [36] Although the level of the trade remained relatively small, the size of total slaves traded grew to a large number over the multiple centuries of its existence. [4] Because of its small and gradual nature, the impact on slavery practices in communities that did not convert to Islam was relatively small. [4] However, in the 1800s, the slave trade from Africa to the Islamic countries picked up significantly. When the European slave trade ended around the 1850s, [211] the slave trade to the east picked up significantly only to be ended with European colonization of Africa around 1900. [153] Between 1500 and 1900, up to 17 million Africans slaves were transported by Muslim traders to the coast of the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, and North Africa. [212]

In 1814, Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt wrote of his travels in Egypt and Nubia, where he saw the practice of slave trading: "I frequently witnessed scenes of the most shameless indecency, which the traders, who were the principal actors, only laughed at. I may venture to state, that very few female slaves who have passed their tenth year, reach Egypt or Arabia in a state of virginity." [213]

David Livingstone while talking about the slave trade in East Africa in his journals:

To overdraw its evil is a simple impossibility. [214] : 442

Livingstone wrote about a group of slaves forced to march by Arab slave traders in the African Great Lakes region when he was travelling there in 1866: [215]

19th June 1866 - We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead, the people of the country explained that she had bene unable to keep up with the other slaves in a gang, and her master had determined that she should not become anyone's property if she recovered. [214] : 56
26th June 1866 – . We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body and lying on the path: a group of mon stood about a hundred yards off on one side, and another of the women on the other side, looking on they said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer.
27th June 1866 – To-day we came upon a man dead from starvation, as he was very thin. One of our men wandered and found many slaves with slave-sticks on, abandoned by their masters from want of food they were too weak to be able to speak or say where they had come from some were quite young. [214] : 62

Zanzibar was once East Africa's main slave-trading port, and under Omani Arabs in the 19th century as many as 50,000 slaves were passing through the city each year. [216]

The establishment of the Dutch East India Company in the early 17th century lead to a quick increase in volume of the slave trade in the region there were perhaps up to 500,000 slaves in various Dutch colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries in the Indian Ocean. For example, some 4000 African slaves were used to build the Colombo fortress in Dutch Ceylon. Bali and neighbouring islands supplied regional networks with c. 100,000–150,000 slaves 1620–1830. Indian and Chinese slave traders supplied Dutch Indonesia with perhaps 250,000 slaves during 17th and 18th centuries. [217]

The East India Company (EIC) was established during the same period and in 1622 one of its ships carried slaves from the Coromandel Coast to Dutch East Indies. The EIC mostly traded in African slaves but also some Asian slaves purchased from Indian, Indonesian and Chinese slave traders. The French established colonies on the islands of Réunion and Mauritius in 1721 by 1735 some 7,200 slaves populated the Mascarene Islands, a number which had reached 133,000 in 1807. The British captured the islands in 1810, however, and because the British had prohibited the slave trade in 1807 a system of clandestine slave trade developed to bring slaves to French planters on the islands in all 336,000–388,000 slaves were exported to the Mascarane Islands from 1670 until 1848. [217]

In all, Europeans traders exported 567,900–733,200 slaves within the Indian Ocean between 1500 and 1850 and almost that same amount were exported from the Indian Ocean to the Americas during the same period. Slave trade in the Indian Ocean was, nevertheless, very limited compared to c. 12,000,000 slaves exported across the Atlantic. [217]

Atlantic slave trade Edit

The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through to the 19th centuries. [218] According to Patrick Manning, the Atlantic slave trade was significant in transforming Africans from a minority of the global population of slaves in 1600 into the overwhelming majority by 1800 and by 1850 the number of African slaves within Africa exceeded those in the Americas. [219]

The slave trade was transformed from a marginal aspect of the economies into the largest sector in a relatively short span. [220] In addition, agricultural plantations increased significantly and became a key aspect in many societies. [221] [4] Economic urban centers that served as the root of main trade routes shifted towards the West coast. [222] At the same time, many African communities relocated far away from slave trade routes, often protecting themselves from the Atlantic slave trade but hindering economic and technological development at the same time. [223]

In many African societies traditional lineage slavery became more like chattel slavery due to an increased work demand. [224] This resulted in a general decrease in quality of life, working conditions, and status of slaves in West African societies. [225] Assimilative slavery was increasingly replaced with chattel slavery. [226] Assimilitave slavery in Africa often allowed eventual freedom and also significant cultural, social, and/or economic influence. [227] Slaves were often treated as part of their owner's family, rather than simply property. [224]

The distribution of gender among enslaved peoples under traditional lineage slavery saw women as more desirable slaves due to demands for domestic labour and for reproductive reasons. [224] Male slaves were used for more physical agricultural labour, [228] but as more enslaved men were taken to the West Coast and across the Atlantic to the New World, female slaves were increasingly used for physical and agricultural labour and polygyny also increased. [229] Chattel slavery in America was highly demanding because of the physical nature of plantation work and this was the most common destination for male slaves in the New World. [224]

It has been argued that a decrease in able-bodied people as a result of the Atlantic slave trade limited many societies ability to cultivate land and develop. [230] Many scholars argue that the transatlantic slave trade, left Africa underdeveloped, demographically unbalanced, and vulnerable to future European colonization. [223]

The first Europeans to arrive on the coast of Guinea were the Portuguese the first European to actually buy enslaved Africans in the region of Guinea was Antão Gonçalves, a Portuguese explorer in 1441 AD. [231] Originally interested in trading mainly for gold and spices, they set up colonies on the uninhabited islands of São Tomé. [232] In the 16th century the Portuguese settlers found that these volcanic islands were ideal for growing sugar. [233] Sugar growing is a labour-intensive undertaking and Portuguese settlers were difficult to attract due to the heat, lack of infrastructure, and hard life. [234] To cultivate the sugar the Portuguese turned to large numbers of enslaved Africans. Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast, originally built by African labour for the Portuguese in 1482 to control the gold trade, became an important depot for slaves that were to be transported to the New World. [235]

The Spanish were the first Europeans to use enslaved Africans in America on islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola, [236] where the alarming death rate in the native population had spurred the first royal laws protecting the native population (Laws of Burgos, 1512–13). [237] The first enslaved Africans arrived in Hispaniola in 1501 soon after the Papal Bull of 1493 gave almost all of the New World to Spain. [238]

In Igboland, for example, the Aro oracle (the Igbo religious authority) began condemning more people to slavery due to small infractions that previously probably wouldn't have been punishable by slavery, thus increasing the number of enslaved men available for purchase. [224]

The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the late 18th century, when the largest number of people were bought or captured from West Africa and taken to the Americas. [239] The increase of demand for slaves due to the expansion of European colonial powers to the New World made the slave trade much more lucrative to the West African powers, leading to the establishment of a number of actual West African empires thriving on slave trade. [240] These included the Bono State, Oyo empire (Yoruba), Kong Empire, Imamate of Futa Jallon, Imamate of Futa Toro, Kingdom of Koya, Kingdom of Khasso, Kingdom of Kaabu, Fante Confederacy, Ashanti Confederacy, and the kingdom of Dahomey. [241] These kingdoms relied on a militaristic culture of constant warfare to generate the great numbers of human captives required for trade with the Europeans. [4] [242] It is documented in the Slave Trade Debates of England in the early 19th century: "All the old writers concur in stating not only that wars are entered into for the sole purpose of making slaves, but that they are fomented by Europeans, with a view to that object." [243] The gradual abolition of slavery in European colonial empires during the 19th century again led to the decline and collapse of these African empires. [244] When European powers began to stop the Atlantic slave trade, this caused a further change in that large holders of slaves in Africa began to exploit enslaved people on plantations and other agricultural products. [245]

Abolition Edit

The final major transformation of slave relationships came with the inconsistent emancipation efforts starting in the mid-19th century. [246] As European authorities began to take over large parts of inland Africa starting in the 1870s, the colonial policies were often confusing on the issue. [247] For example, even when slavery was deemed illegal, colonial authorities would return escaped slaves to their masters. [248] [4] Slavery persisted in some countries under colonial rule, and in some instances it was not until independence that slavery practices were significantly transformed. [249] [250] Anti-colonial struggles in Africa often brought slaves and former slaves together with masters and former masters to fight for independence [251] however, this cooperation was short-lived and following independence political parties would often form based upon the stratifications of slaves and masters. [252] [153]

In some parts of Africa, slavery and slavery-like practices continue to this day, particularly the illegal trafficking of women and children. [253] [254] The problem has proven to be difficult for governments and civil society to eliminate. [255] [256]

Efforts by Europeans against slavery and the slave trade began in the late 18th century and had a large impact on slavery in Africa. [257] Portugal was the first country in the continent to abolish slavery in metropolitan Portugal and Portuguese India by a bill issued on 12 February 1761, but this did not affect their colonies in Brazil and Africa. [258] France abolished slavery in 1794. However, slavery was again allowed by Napoleon in 1802 and not abolished for good until 1848. [259] In 1803, Denmark-Norway became the first country from Europe to implement a ban on the slave trade. [260] Slavery itself was not banned until 1848. [261] Britain followed in 1807 with the passage of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act by Parliament. [262] This law allowed stiff fines, increasing with the number of slaves transported, for captains of slave ships. [263] Britain followed this with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which freed all slaves in the British Empire. [264] British pressure on other countries resulted in them agreeing to end the slave trade from Africa. [265] For example, the 1820 U.S. Law on Slave Trade made slave trading piracy, punishable by death. [266] In addition, the Ottoman Empire abolished slave trade from Africa in 1847 under British pressure. [267]

By 1850, the year that the last major Atlantic slave trade participant (Brazil) passed the Eusébio de Queirós Law banning the slave trade, [268] the slave trades had been significantly slowed and in general only illegal trade went on. [269] Brazil continued the practice of slavery and was a major source for illegal trade until about 1870 and the abolition of slavery became permanent in 1888 when Princess Isabel of Brazil and Minister Rodrigo Silva (son-in-law of senator Eusebio de Queiroz) banned the practice. [153] The British took an active approach to stopping the illegal Atlantic slave trade during this period. [270] The West Africa Squadron was credited with capturing 1,600 slave ships between 1808 and 1860, and freeing 150,000 Africans who were aboard these ships. [271] Action was also taken against African leaders who refused to agree to British treaties to outlaw the trade, for example against ‘the usurping King of Lagos’, deposed in 1851. [272] Anti-slavery treaties were signed with over 50 African rulers.

According to Patrick Manning, internal slavery was most important to Africa in the second half of the 19th century, stating "if there is any time when one can speak of African societies being organized around a slave mode production, [1850–1900] was it". [274] The abolition of the Atlantic slave trade resulted in the economies of African states dependent on the trade being reorganized towards domestic plantation slavery and legitimate commerce worked by slave labour. [275] Slavery before this period was generally domestic. [153] [11]

The continuing anti-slavery movement in Europe became an excuse and a casus belli for the European conquest and colonization of much of the African continent. [189] It was the central theme of the Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference 1889-90. [276] In the late 19th century, the Scramble for Africa saw the continent rapidly divided between imperialistic European powers, and an early but secondary focus of all colonial regimes was the suppression of slavery and the slave trade. [277] Seymour Drescher argues that European interests in abolition were primarily motivated by economic and imperial goals. [278] Despite slavery often being a justification behind conquest, colonial regimes often ignored slavery or allowed slavery practices to continue. [279] [280] This was because the colonial state depended on the cooperation of indigenous political and economic structures which were heavily involved in slavery. [281] As a result, early colonial policies usually sought to end slave trading while regulating existing slave practices and weakening the power of slave masters. [282] [134] Furthermore, the early colonial states had weak effective control over their territories, which precluded efforts to widespread abolition. Abolition attempts became more concrete later during the colonial period. [283] [134]

There were many causes for the decline and abolition of slavery in Africa during the colonial period including colonial abolition policies, various economic changes, and slave resistance. [284] The economic changes during the colonial period, including the rise of wage labour and cash crops, hastened the decline of slavery by offering new economic opportunities to slaves. [285] The abolition of slave raiding and the end of wars between African states drastically reduced the supply of slaves. [286] Slaves would take advantage of early colonial laws that nominally abolished slavery and would migrate away from their masters although these laws often were intended to regulate slavery more than actually abolish it. [287] This migration led to more concrete abolition efforts by colonial governments. [134] [288] [4]

Following conquest and abolition by the French, over a million slaves in French West Africa fled from their masters to earlier homes between 1906 and 1911. [289] In Madagascar over 500,000 slaves were freed following French abolition in 1896. [290] In response to this pressure, Ethiopia officially abolished slavery in 1932, Sokoto Caliphate abolished slavery in 1900, and the rest of the Sahel in 1911. [291] Colonial nations were mostly successful in this aim, though slavery is still very active in Africa even though it has gradually moved to a wage economy. [292] Independent nations attempting to westernize or impress Europe sometimes cultivated an image of slavery suppression, even as they, in the case of Egypt, hired European soldiers like Samuel White Baker's expedition up the Nile. [293] Slavery has never been eradicated in Africa, and it commonly appears in African states, such as Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, and Sudan, in places where law and order have collapsed. [294]

Although outlawed in all countries today, slavery is practised in secret in many parts of the world. [295] There are an estimated 30 million victims of slavery worldwide. [296] In Mauritania alone, up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20% of the population, are enslaved, many of them used as bonded labour. [297] [298] Slavery in Mauritania was finally criminalized in August 2007. [299] During the Second Sudanese Civil War people were taken into slavery estimates of abductions range from 14,000 to 200,000. [300] In Niger, where the practice of slavery was outlawed in 2003, a study found that almost 8% of the population are still slaves. [301] [302]

Demographics Edit

Slavery and the slave trades had a significant impact on the size of the population and the gender distribution throughout much of Africa. The precise impact of these demographic shifts has been an issue of significant debate. [303] The Atlantic slave trade took 70,000 people, primarily from the west coast of Africa, per year at its peak in the mid-1700s. [153] The trans-Saharan slave trade involved the capture of peoples from the continental interior, who were then shipped overseas through ports on the Red Sea and elsewhere. [304] It peaked at 10,000 people bartered per year in the 1600s. [153] According to Patrick Manning, there was a consistent population decrease in large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of these slave trades. [305] This population decline throughout West Africa from 1650 until 1850 was exacerbated by the preference of slave traders for male slaves. [306] It is important to note that this preference only existed in the transatlantic slave trade. More female slaves than male were traded across the continent of Africa. [104] [153] In eastern Africa, the slave trade was multi-directional and changed over time. [186] To meet the demand for menial labour, Zanj slaves captured from the southern interior were sold through ports on the northern seaboard in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in the Nile Valley, Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Persian Gulf, India, Far East and the Indian Ocean islands. [304]

Extent of slavery Edit

The extent of slavery within Africa and the trade in slaves to other regions is not known precisely. [307] Although the Atlantic slave trade has been best studied, estimates range from 8 million people to 20 million. [308] The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database estimates that the Atlantic slave trade took around 12.8 million people between 1450 and 1900. [4] [309] The slave trade across the Sahara and Red Sea from the Sahara, the Horn of Africa, and East Africa, has been estimated at 6.2 million people between 600 and 1600. [310] [4] Although the rate decreased from East Africa in the 1700s, it increased in the 1800s and is estimated at 1.65 million for that century. [311] [4]

Estimates by Patrick Manning are that about 12 million slaves entered the Atlantic trade between the 16th and 19th century, but about 1.5 million died on board ship. [312] About 10.5 million slaves arrived in the Americas. [312] Besides the slaves who died on the Middle Passage, more Africans likely died during the slave raids in Africa and forced marches to ports. [313] Manning estimates that 4 million died inside Africa after capture, and many more died young. [312] Manning's estimate covers the 12 million who were originally destined for the Atlantic, as well as the 6 million destined for Asian slave markets and the 8 million destined for African markets. [312]

Debate about demographic effect Edit

The demographic effects of the slave trade are some of the most controversial and debated issues. [314] Walter Rodney argued that the export of so many people had been a demographic disaster and had left Africa permanently disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the world, and that this largely explains that continent's continued poverty. [315] He presents numbers that show that Africa's population stagnated during this period, while that of Europe and Asia grew dramatically. According to Rodney all other areas of the economy were disrupted by the slave trade as the top merchants abandoned traditional industries to pursue slaving and the lower levels of the population were disrupted by the slaving itself. [316]

Others have challenged this view. J. D. Fage compared the number effect on the continent as a whole. [317] David Eltis has compared the numbers to the rate of emigration from Europe during this period. [318] In the 19th century alone over 50 million people left Europe for the Americas, a far higher rate than were ever taken from Africa. [319]

Others in turn challenged that view. Joseph E. Inikori argues the history of the region shows that the effects were still quite deleterious. [320] He argues that the African economic model of the period was very different from the European, and could not sustain such population losses. [321] Population reductions in certain areas also led to widespread problems. [322] Inikori also notes that after the suppression of the slave trade Africa's population almost immediately began to rapidly increase, even prior to the introduction of modern medicines. [323]

Effect on the economy of Africa Edit

There is a longstanding debate among analysts and scholars about the destructive impacts of the slave trades. [51] It is often claimed that the slave trade undermined local economies and political stability as villages' vital labour forces were shipped overseas as slave raids and civil wars became commonplace. [324] With the rise of a large commercial slave trade, driven by European needs, enslaving your enemy became less a consequence of war, and more and more a reason to go to war. [325] The slave trade was claimed to have impeded the formation of larger ethnic groups, causing ethnic factionalism and weakening the formation for stable political structures in many places. [326] It also is claimed to have reduced the mental health and social development of African people. [327]

In contrast to these arguments, J. D. Fage asserts that slavery did not have a wholly disastrous effect on the societies of Africa. [328] Slaves were an expensive commodity, and traders received a great deal in exchange for each enslaved person. [329] At the peak of the slave trade hundreds of thousands of muskets, vast quantities of cloth, gunpowder, and metals were being shipped to Guinea. [330] Most of this money was spent on British-made firearms (of very poor quality) and industrial-grade alcohol. [331] Trade with Europe at the peak of the slave trade—which also included significant exports of gold and ivory—was some 3.5 million pounds Sterling per year. [332] By contrast, the trade of the United Kingdom, the economic superpower of the time, was about 14 million pounds per year over this same period of the late 18th century. [333] As Patrick Manning has pointed out, the vast majority of items traded for slaves were common rather than luxury goods. [334] Textiles, iron ore, currency, and salt were some of the most important commodities imported as a result of the slave trade, and these goods were spread within the entire society raising the general standard of living. [335] [51]

Although debated, it is argued that the Atlantic slave trade devastated the African economy. [336] In 19th century Yoruba Land, economic activity was described to be at its lowest ever while life and property were being taken daily, and normal living was in jeopardy because of the fear of being kidnapped. [337] (Onwumah, Imhonopi, Adetunde,2019)

Effects on Europe's economy Edit

Karl Marx in his economic history of capitalism, Das Kapital, claimed that ". the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins [that is, the slave trade], signalled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. [338] "He argued that the slave trade was part of what he termed the "primitive accumulation" [339] of European capital, the non-capitalist accumulation of wealth that preceded and created the financial conditions for Britain's industrialisation and the advent of the capitalist mode of production. [340] [341]

Eric Williams has written about the contribution of Africans on the basis of profits from the slave trade and slavery, arguing that the employment of those profits were used to help finance Britain's industrialisation. [342] He argues that the enslavement of Africans was an essential element to the Industrial Revolution, and that European wealth was, in part, a result of slavery, but that by the time of its abolition it had lost its profitability and it was in Britain's economic interest to ban it. [343] Joseph Inikori has written that the British slave trade was more profitable than the critics of Williams believe. [344] Other researchers and historians have strongly contested what has come to be referred to as the "Williams thesis" in academia: David Richardson has concluded that the profits from the slave trade amounted to less than 1% of domestic investment in Britain, [345] and economic historian Stanley Engerman finds that even without subtracting the associated costs of the slave trade (e.g., shipping costs, slave mortality, mortality of whites in Africa, defense costs) [346] or reinvestment of profits back into the slave trade, the total profits from the slave trade and of West Indian plantations amounted to less than 5% of the British economy during any year of the Industrial Revolution. [347] Historian Richard Pares, in an article written before Williams’ book, dismisses the influence of wealth generated from the West Indian plantations upon the financing of the Industrial Revolution, stating that whatever substantial flow of investment from West Indian profits into industry there was occurred after emancipation, [348] not before. [349] Findlay and O'Rourke noted that the figures presented by O'Brien (1982) to back his claim that "the periphery was peripheral" suggest the opposite, with profits from the periphery 1784–1786 being £5.66 million when there was £10.30 million total gross investment in the British economy and similar proportions for 1824–1826. [350] They note that dismissing the profits of the enslavement of human beings from significance because it was a "small share of national income", [351] could be used to argue that there was no industrial revolution, since modern industry provided only a small share of national income and that it is a mistake to assume that small size is the same as small significance. [352] Findlay and O'Rourke also note that the share of American export commodities produced by enslaved human beings, rose from 54% between 1501 and 1550 to 82.5% between 1761 and 1780. [353]

Seymour Drescher and Robert Anstey argue the slave trade remained profitable until the end, [354] because of innovations in agriculture, and that moralistic reform, not economic incentive, was primarily responsible for abolition. [355]

A similar debate has taken place about other European nations. [356] The French slave trade, it is argued, was more profitable than alternative domestic investments, and probably encouraged capital accumulation before the Industrial Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. [357]

Legacy of racism Edit

Maulana Karenga states the effects of the Atlantic slave trade in African captives: [358] "[T]he morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among people of today". [359] He says that it constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility. [360]

Legal challenges to slavery in British North America

British abolitionists had actively opposed the transatlantic trade in African people since the 1770s. (Several abolitionist petitions organized in 1833 alone collectively garnered the support of 1.3 million signatories.) Such antislavery views spread to Upper Canada (later Canada West), influencing the passage there of the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery, the first such legislation in the British colonies.

In the eastern colonies of Lower Canada (what is now Québec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, however, abolitionist attempts had been unsuccessful. In 1793, for instance, Pierre-Louis Panet introduced a bill to the National Assembly to abolish enslavement in Lower Canada, but the bill languished over several sessions and never came to a vote.

Instead, individual legal challenges first raised in the late 1700s undermined the institution of enslavement in these areas. One important case arose in February 1798, when an enslaved woman named Charlotte was arrested in Montréal and refused to return to her mistress. She was brought before James Monk, a justice of the King’s Bench with abolitionist sympathies, who released her on a technicality. According to British law, enslaved persons could be detained only in houses of corrections, not common jails, and no houses of correction existed in Montréal. Charlotte and another enslaved woman named Judith were accordingly freed that winter. Monk stated in his ruling that he would apply this interpretation of the law to subsequent cases. Another significant 1798 case came before the courts in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, when a local military officer, Frederick William Hecht, sought to establish his title to an enslaved woman named Rachel Bross. After a lengthy trial, the jury rejected Hecht’s claim, ruling instead that Bross was a free servant.

Rulings in such cases did not always favour emancipation, however. Only two years after the trials of Charlotte and Bross, an enslaved woman named Nancy petitioned for her freedom in the New Brunswick courts. Fourteen years earlier, Nancy had run away with her son and three others, but they were caught and returned to her owner, a farmer and loyalist settler named Caleb Jones. The challenge filed by her attorneys was that slavery was a socially accepted custom but was not officially recognized in New Brunswick. The judges’ decision was split, and Nancy remained enslaved.

Vermont 1777: Early Steps Against Slavery

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. LOC 2017586669.

Long before Vermont became our 14th state, its people were known for their independence. They were not excited about joining the new United States nor did they want to remain a part of the British crown. They liked being independent and made that clear to the other colonies on more than one occasion.

Such an opportunity came on July 2, 1777. In response to abolitionists' calls across the colonies to end slavery, Vermont became the first colony to ban it outright. Not only did Vermont's legislature agree to abolish slavery entirely, it also moved to provide full voting rights for African American males. On November 25, 1858, Vermont would again underscore this commitment by ratifying a stronger anti-slavery law into its constitution.

Vermont's July 2, 1777 action was undoubtedly a historic event. The proclamation underscored the growing discontent many had with slavery and the slave trade, particularly in the colonies of the North where Quaker-led abolitionist movements were taking root.

Earlier, in 1774, New England-area colonies Rhode Island and Connecticut had outlawed overseas slave importation, but still allowed inter-colony slave trade.

Regardless of the good legal intentions of New England legislators, black Americans continued to be treated with disdain and cruelty in the North.

While Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut abolitionists achieved laudable goals, each state created legal strictures making it difficult for “free” blacks to find work, own property or even remain in the state.Rhode Island, while legally ending slave importation from overseas, continued to have the highest number of slave auctions in the New England states. Additionally, Rhode Island's laws governing the treatment of African Americans — free or slave — were continually revised and updated and were among the harshest in the colonies.

Observations Upon Negro-Slavery (1790).

If free blacks associated with slaves, both could and would be whipped. Anyone giving an African American a cup of hard cider was leveled with a heavy fine, whipped or both.

Vermont's July 1777 declaration was not entirely altruistic either. While it did set an independent tone from the 13 colonies, the declaration's wording was vague enough to let Vermont's already-established slavery practices continue.

The harshest treatment for free blacks in New England was found in Connecticut. Through a series of different legislative acts created before and after the Revolutionary War, it became nearly impossible for free African Americans to live in the state. For example, free blacks could not walk into a business without the proprietor's consent, nor could free blacks own property.

In fact, Connecticut lawmakers were so strident in their efforts to push blacks out of their state, the property law was rewritten to be retroactive. The few free African Americans who did own land were forced to void their titles and return property ownership to the town.

More often than not, New England emancipation declarations provided cover for more covert laws that ultimately sought to force African Americans into leaving their states. Whether free or not, black Americans clearly understood that their day-to-day welfare was dependent on their ability to both challenge and accommodate the racism they faced.

African Americans during this period were more often treated — at least physically — better than their kinsmen and women in the South. But they remained discriminated against, unwanted, and, at times, subjected to harsh treatment similar to that suffered by enslaved Africans in the South.

Collection box of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society owned by Garrison family, 1830s - 1850s.

So, while it is important to note the intent of the Vermont legislature when it banned slavery — to send a message of independence from the original colonies — it is equally important to understand that the lives of free black men and women in Vermont and elsewhere in New England remained harsh and unfair.

The British Empire Formally Abolishes The Slave Trade

Today on March 25, 1807, Great Britain officially put an end to centuries of slave trading across its vast empire.

After years of national debate, the Parliament of the United Kingdom finally enacted the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. The Act was the first significant step towards full emancipation for African slaves living throughout its vast empire. It essentially prevented any new people from being enslaved however, all existing slaves sadly remained in chains. In 1787, a committee was formed by English Evangelical Protestants to explore options for ending the slave trade. An alliance led by William Wilberforce eventually united the various factions who supported emancipation.

The Atlantic Slave Trade was one of the most well organized and efficient human trading systems in history. Leading European powers used the slave trade to support their growing colonial and industrial aspirations. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World between 1525 and 1866 — millions more died while making the treaded voyage.

Britain subsequently began persuading other countries to follow their lead and outrightly ban human trading. The United States Congress enacted a similar bill, the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, later that same month. Portugal, Sweden, France, Netherlands, and Spain all agreed to restrict slave trading by 1820. Anti-slavery treaties were also signed with more than 50 African nations. The British Parliament instituted a fine of £100 for any captain transporting slaves. Factoring in inflation, that fine would be close to £8,300 in today's dollars. The following year, the Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron to patrol and enforce the Act.

The squadron began with only two 32-gun frigates and rapidly expanded over the following decade. At the height of its operations, it represented around one-sixth of the entire Royal Navy and was renamed as the Prevention Squad. Over the next fifty years, the squadron seized over 1,500 slave ships and freed more than 150,000 Africans - many went on to settle in the Bahamas and Jamaica. It would take another twenty-six years before slavery itself became entirely outlawed in Britain. In 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed, which officially made slavery illegal across the British Empire.

Watch the video: Three Minute History - Abolition of slave trade


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