By Katie Donington

Slave Emancipation; Or, John Bull Gulled Out Of Twenty Millions. Woodcut printed and published by G. Drake. Courtesy of UCL Art Collection, EPC8032.
Slave Emancipation; Or, John Bull Gulled Out Of Twenty Millions. Woodcut printed and published by G. Drake. Courtesy of UCL Art Collection, EPC8032.

Recent years have seen transatlantic slavery once again brought to the fore of public consciousness. The worlds of academic history, culture and politics combined to reinvigorate debates around slavery and its legacies.  Last year the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project launched its online database revealing for the first time the identities of those who claimed compensation for the loss of their ‘property’ in people following the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope in 1833.  The most recent issue of the History Workshop Journal features an article by Catherine Hall, one of the project’s leaders, which argues that gender and race are both critical to capital formation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  You can view the article on special open access here.

Renewed interest in slavery has stretched well beyond the academy. In 2014 the release of Steve McQueen’s Oscar winning film Twelve Years A Slave alongside Amma Assante’s Belle offered, albeit radically different, accounts of American and British involvement with the slavery. Both films raised questions about the place of slavery within their respective national histories. This year has also seen an important political development with the announcement by the Caribbean Community, known as Caricom, that it would be pursuing a ten point plan for reparations from the European nation-states that participated in and benefited from the slavery business. In their own way each of these interventions have engendered a public reckoning with this traumatic past. The variety and strength of public response has shown that the issue remains a deeply contentious and divisive one that cuts into the seams of our multi-cultural and post-colonial society.

The Forgotten Slave-owners

In Britain the history of slavery has more often than not been encountered through the lens of abolition. The memory of abolitionism and its importance to Britain’s conception of itself as a benevolent, liberal, freedom-loving democracy, was made abundantly clear during the 2007 commemorations of the abolition of the slave trade. The abolition of slavery continues to be one of the cornerstones of British national identity: in Prime Minister David Cameron’s words, ‘Britain may be a small island, but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience… Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery.’ But focusing on the national heritage of abolition has helped hide a darker history, as Linda Colley has pointed out, ‘from being the world’s greediest and most successful traders of slaves in  the eighteenth century the British had shifted to being able to preen themselves on being the world’s foremost opponents of slavery.’ To borrow historian Christopher Leslie Brown’s phrase, the ‘moral capital’ of abolitionism provides a means of redeeming Britain’s troubling colonial past as well as a justification for its continued role in international affairs.

The rush to commemorate abolition and the urge to forget this less than noble chapter in British history has obscured the ways in which slavery impacted on the social, political, economic and cultural landscape of Britain both during the period and beyond. The extent and range of profiteering that took place meant that wealth generated through the slavery business infiltrated diverse and seemingly disconnected areas of British society. The practice of slavery was at its most intensive in the colonies, where the enslaved laboured to produce the tropical commodities that European people craved. However, the system of slavery also relied on a whole swathe of attendant industries at home in Britain. These included, but were by no means limited to, shipping, insurance and finance, all of which were vital to the establishment and maintenance of the slave economy. The West India merchant houses of London and Glasgow were key sites for the organisation and financing of the commerce in slave-produced commodities. Plantation societies like Jamaica were reliant on credit provided by the counting houses in Britain. Slavery was a complex economic system that implicated far greater numbers than simply the men in the colonies wielding the whip.

When thinking about slave-ownership the image that most readily comes to mind for many people is the stereotypical Caribbean planter depicted in Slave Emancipation; Or, John Bull Gulled Out Of Twenty Millions. During the eighteenth century this figure had become a stock character, exemplified, for example, in Richard Cumberland’s play The West Indian (1771). Having made a fortune through sugar and slavery many of the plantocratic elite believed the epitome of success was to join the ranks of high society in Britain. Lampooned in some parts of society for their gluttony, opulence and lack of metropolitan taste, absentee plantation owners were an important conduit for wealth created in the colonies. These were individuals who were determined to leave their mark on British society through marriages, investments, country-house ownership, politics, and cultural patronage. Yet, bar a few familiar names like the Harewoods and Beckfords, most of these West India families have been lost to memory; successfully integrated into older more established families or, owing to the disturbing origin of their wealth, simply forgotten.

Despite their domination of popular memory the Caribbean planter class represented only one of the ways in which people could become involved in slave-ownership during the period. Complex networks of credit finance, kin and inheritance both in Britain and in the colonies meant that slave-ownership infiltrated a wide cross-section of society; from a widow with an annuity on a single enslaved person, to a West India merchant who foreclosed on a mortgage and claimed enslaved people as repayment for the debt. Up until the later stages of the abolition campaign slave-ownership presented no bar to respectability, it was instead a common and unremarkable facet of British life.  Little is known about these forgotten slave-owners but their stories demonstrate some of the ways in which slavery returned home, posing a challenge to our understanding of the institution as a distant colonial phenomena. It is these people’s stories that the historians working on the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project have been documenting. In doing so their work has shed light on the ways in which slave-based wealth infiltrated Britain, enmeshing metropole with colony through the bonds of commerce, property and family.

The Slave Compensation Commission Records

Whilst many Britons will be familiar with the philanthropic narrative of abolition and the figure of William Wilberforce, the economic bargaining that took place to ensure the ending of slavery is a less well-known story. As part of the measures taken by the British government to end slavery in 1833 in the Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope, twenty million pounds of compensation was paid to the slave-owners and a period of apprenticeship was forced upon the formerly enslaved people.

The road to abolition had been a long and fraught one. Slave-owners argued that they had bought into the system in good faith; it was a legally sanctioned commercial activity and many had staked their fortunes on investing in it.  By the mid-1820s the Society of West India Planters and Merchants, the mouthpiece of the proslavery lobby, were already resigned to the dismantling of the institution that had formerly supported them. They were however unwilling to relinquish it without a fight. In 1823 they resolved that ‘Whatever the abstract Right of the Slave to his freedom, it cannot affect in the case before us, the Title of Master to Compensation.’ For, they lamented, it was not just the ‘Property of the Planters’ at stake but also ‘the Interests of Widows, Children, Annuitants and Mortgagees.’ The government therefore must ‘provide without delay, a fund which may be adequate to afford Compensation.’ Enslaved people were classed as a form of property during a period in which property ownership was a near-sacred principle.

Compensation Parliamentary Papers
Slavery Abolition Act: an account of all sums of money awarded by the Commissioners of Slave Compensation’, Parliamentary Papers 1837-8 (215) XLVIII, p. 76. Image © Senate House Library.

The process of compensating the slave-owners was a protracted one. The government borrowed money from a syndicate organised by Nathan Mayer Rothschild. The amount represented approximately 40 per cent of government expenditure, although at the time the state was much smaller than today. The loan was incorporated into the national debt, a move which was presented as a form of atonement for what had been described as a ‘national sin’. If the claim was deemed to be genuine then the money was paid via the National Debt Office of the Bank of England. Valuations of the enslaved were made according to gender, age, skill and the productivity of the individual colony in which they laboured. Crudely speaking this meant that, for example, an enslaved person in the profitable colony of British Guiana was worth more than their counterpart in Jamaica where the sugar economy had been in decline.

The records of the Slave Compensation Commission offer a route into the history of slave-ownership in Britain. The records, which have been digitised by the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project, are housed in hard copy at the National Archive at Kew. The bureaucratic records that the compensation process produced offer a snap-shot of who the slave-owners were at the ending of slavery. In this sense we must recognise their limitations as a source on slave-ownership because they do not identify the individuals and families of an earlier and more arguably more profitable period of engagement with the slavery business. The next phase of the project’s work already underway at University College London – The Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slavery 1763-1833 – will go back further in time to try and trace who the slave-owners were in the years following the end of the Seven Years War up until the abolition of slavery. The project’s findings will be incorporated into an updated version of the database which will be available in 2016.

The Encyclopaedia of British Slave-ownership

Historian Nick Draper’s ground-breaking analysis of the compensation records, The Price of Emancipation (2009) laid the foundation for The Legacies of British Slave-ownership. The project has digitised the records of around 46,000 claimants and published them online. Approximately ten million pounds of the compensation money was paid to people who lived in Britain with the rest going back to the colonies. Focusing on around 3,000 slave-owners who were resident in Britain, the open access database sheds light on the sheer scope of people who claimed ownership of the enslaved in 1833. Some of the initial findings have revealed surprising new information, for example of the 46,000 claimants approximately 40 per cent of those were women. In contrast to the image we have of the white linen clad male slave-owner on a plantation in the Caribbean, instead we are presented with Dorothy Little a widow of seventy from Clifton, Bristol who received £297 1s 6d for 13 enslaved people in Jamaica. As Catherine Hall has argued in her work on gendering property, enslaved people were the means for some women to enjoy independence – their relative liberation, particularly as widows, rested on the shoulders of those they kept in slavery. Women were vital conduits for wealth within the slave economy; they might be used to consolidate pre-existing ties of business and family, or realise social aspirations through their advantageous matches within the gentry and aristocracy.

The geographical spread of slave-owners has also prompted a shift in focus away from those areas traditionally associated with the slavery business – London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow – engendering a re-evaluation of local histories in relation to slavery. Controlled and contained within these spaces, the geographic boundaries set on the memory of slavery enabled a denial of its importance to both national history and local experience outside of these designated areas. The records of the Slave Compensation Commission reveal a much more complex story – the local nuances of a ‘national sin.’ They allow us to tell stories about slavery that connect this history to modern Briton’s everyday lives, the streets they walk down and the places where they live.

From the basic biographical data included in the compensation claims, the project attempted to trace the impact of the individuals resident in Britain through an examination of the social, cultural, political, commercial, imperial and physical legacies they left behind. It has examined whether or not these people invested in commercial concerns and if so what? Did their money help to build railways, docks or roads? Were they M.P.s or involved in local and imperial politics? Did they build country houses or collect art and books? Did they author books about the West Indies and if so how did this shape ideas about race in Britain? Were they involved with the establishment of philanthropic or cultural institutions? In attempting to answer these questions the project has sought to offer, an albeit incomplete, empirical basis for the discussion of the ways in which slavery contributed to the formation of Victorian Britain. The issue of Britain’s debt to slavery has tended polarise public opinion. A Nick Draper has stated the work of the project has been to try and ‘fill the gaps between those who deny slavery’s role and those who believe Britain was built entirely on the blood of slaves.’

slaaveries
Lubaina Himid, Naming the Money, UK, 2004. © Lubaina Himid.

Conclusion

Slavery is the history that connects Britain to Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean. It is the painful and uncomfortable story of the enrichment of one group through the violent expropriation of the labour and human resources of another. It has had long-lasting and serious ramifications that are both economic and human – the cost of slavery is more than merely money. The abolition of slavery allowed Britain to reconfigure its image from that of enslaver to emancipator. The comfortable bracketing of this history encapsulated by the celebrations that marked the passing of years 1807-2007 has allowed the nation to draw a line in the sand, to insist that it is over. So often when discussing the vexed issue of slavery the historian is confronted with the idea that this history is in the past and we should move on, as if the legacies of slavery can somehow be contained by a legal declaration of freedom, as if the passing of a law suddenly and forever brought equality and opportunity for the formerly enslaved people and their descendants. The payment of compensation bestowed upon the slave-owners confirmation of their respectability as well as the means to remake themselves anew in the dawning of the Victorian era. What did the gift of freedom bring for the enslaved? A further period of unfree labour in the form of apprenticeship, continued racial inequalities and a hard struggle for eventual independence.

The Legacies of British Slave-ownership project has a part to play in the debate surrounding the issue of reparations. The front cover of its recently published book is taken from Uncomfortable Truths a 2007 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum by artist Lubaina Himid. When interviewed about her work Himid said ‘I tend to address the hidden and neglected, cultural and economic contribution, made by real, but forgotten, people to the history and swagger of so-called great and established nations… The piece was made to explore notions of what it is to belong and what it means to make the best of a life unpaid and abused that may have been thrust upon you… It is more about naming than it is about money.’ The contribution that the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project has made is centred on this notion of historical repair – that acknowledging this history, that naming it, must be part of the process of coming to the table to negotiate meaningful forms of reconciliation.

 

Katie-Donington1Katie Donington is a Research Associate on the ESRC/ AHRC funded ‘Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-ownership 1763-1833’ project at University College London. She completed her PhD with the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project in 2013. Her research focuses on the merchant networks of the Hibbert family between London and Jamaica.

36 Comments

  1. Valerie Mainstone

    Dear Julia

    Right now I’m in France, but normally I live in Brighton. I was very interested to hear about your work. As a newly-elected Heritage Commissioner for Brighton & Hove, I am keen to support Black History locally. However, as far as I know, Black History is not part of my own heritage (but who knows, eh?)

    The Commission has asked me to head up a small research team around commemorations of the First World War. You may be sure that Black History, Women’ History, and Conscientious Objectors will not be forgotten.

    For the past year I have been supporting the idea of commemorating (with a blue plaque adjacent to Brighton’s Royal Pavilion) one of the soldiers from British India who came here for convalescence after being wounded during the First World War. He was awarded the Victory Cross for his bravery in action, and received the medal from King George V at the Royal Pavilion.

    There is a wonderful group here who put on an annual Black History Month. I don’t have their details here with me in France, but you can contact Bert Williams, one of their leading lights, via Mosaic at Community Base, Queen’s Road, Brighton BN1. I’m sure they would be delighted to hear from you.

    I recently learned that men from Jamaica, Trinidad and other former British colonies in the Caribbean had to struggle to be allowed to join the British army in the First World War. Having succeeded, they found themselves in the front line in the Dardinelles ‘theatre of war.’ The white British officers were so brutal that the soldiers mutinied, and the mutineers were imprisoned. The British government was frightened that these men would spread disaffection if they were allowed to go home. Eventually, the British government developed a cunning plan to dump the men in Cuba, where many of them (lacking the means to get home) spent the rest of their lives.

    I do hope this information is of interest to you, and please let me know if I can support your work in any way. All best wishes from Valerie

    • Valerie Mainstone

      Thank you

      • Julia Laite

        Thanks for your comments, Valerie, but just to clarify Katie Donnington wrote this piece, not me. I’ll draw her attention to your comment.

        • Valerie Mainstone

          Thank you, Julia. I realised my mistake when I was in the process of closing the email, so thanks for passing it on to Kate.

          Best wishes from Valerie

          • Hi Valerie,

            Thanks so much for reading the article and leaving a comment. I will certainly contact Bert, I was just involved in organising a day conference that included a fantastic panel on Black Soldiers During WWI/2. So important to remember the global nature of the conflict – the politics of memory around centenaries are hugely important in terms of inclusion / exclusion from the nation.

            On a different note I received an email about a year ago from someone working on the slave-owners who lived in Brighton and Hove. If you want to drop me an email perhaps I can put you in touch with this person. They were very keen to do some kind of local display but they were unsure how to progress with the idea.

            Thanks and best,

            Katie

          • Hi Katie

            Thanks very much for your email. I hope your day conference went very well, and I do so agree that centenaries are important in terms of inclusion/exclusion. I have recently been elected onto Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission, and I am determined that minorities will not be left out of the picture. I would be very pleased if you could pass my email valerie.mainstone@gmail.com and/or my telephone number 01273 729311 to the person who contacted you about slave-owners who lived in Brighton & Hove. I’m sure that the development and prosperity of Brighton as a posh seaside resort, from the eighteenth century onward,owed much to the proceeds of slavery.

            All bestr wishes, and I look forward to hearing from you again,

            Valerie

  2. Lord Denys Rolle and Mr. Forbes were slave holders in Exuma Bahamas. My great grandparents were slaves in Rollestown and Forbes Bahamas. How do we obtain a listing of the slaves these men owned? I understand historical records are kept in Europe regarding these plantation/slave owners

    • Katie Donington

      Hi Cynthia,

      The Rolle family are represented in the slavery compensation records by John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle of Stevenstone, MP for Devon 1780-1796, son of Denys Rolle (1725-1797). You can see the entry here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/1454 You can search the database from here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/search/ that way you can look up all the records in the database that relate to the Bahamas. If you are searching for enslaved people you can check the slave registers which gave the number of enslaved people every three years for each of the Caribbean islands. Some registers have more details than others and I think as a general rule the smaller islands have a lot more detail on the enslaved people than the larger islands like Jamaica. The earliest registers have the most detail so I would start your search with the 1822 Bahamas register. You can access the Bahamas slave registers online for free through Ancestry.com here: http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=1129 I believe that there are original slave registers in both the National Archives in London as well as in the Bahamas itself, but I work on the history of Jamaica so I can’t be sure where in the Bahamas the records are kept – I would contact the local archive in Nassau if you are based in the Bahamas. The Legacies of British Slave-ownership project is expanding the database at the moment and by the end of 2016 there will be a lot more information available through our website that will take users back further in time to cover the period 1763-1833. I hope some of this information is helpful for your search.

      Best wishes,

      Katie

      • Thank you Katie. I am just reading and receiving this information in 2017. I’ll do the research and keep you posted. The only info I have right now are my grandparents death certificates that indicate where they were born and their parents names of Forbes and Rolles, Exuma , Bahamas. I’ve visited the location of the Rollestown plantation in Palatka Florida where an historical Plaque now stands. My sister accomplished the DNA test and our ancestors were taken from Senega region. .I appreciate all the info you provided. Again, I thank you.

  3. Gidlow and Alvey

    Two family names Gidlow based in Derbyshire and east .

    Alvey based in derbyshire

  4. Dear Katie:
    I just came across your research article entitled Legacies of British Slave Ownership; which was apparently published in November of last year. Just want to say that the kind of research you are involved with is truly fascinating; as well as highly relevant to all of us having a better understanding of the huge part that Slavery paid in ‘sparking’ the industrial revolution and the creation of our modern capitalist system. I trust that the recent remarkable book ‘Empire Of Cotton: A Gobal History’ by Sven Becker is of particular interest to your field of research. In that Slavery did not come to an end in my United States until 30 years after It was abolished In The U.K. we must keep in mind that ‘capitalism’ in the U.K. continued to rely on Slavery in the U.S. (if indirectly) to keep the mills running in the Midlands.
    As for myself, I’m an ‘arm chair’ (‘want to be’) historian (that graduated from U.C. Berkeley and it’s Law School —now retired from 30 years of practice in San Fransisco, C.A.). Once again, I think the tedious research you have been doing is a researcher is highly important, and I look forward to seeing your name in future articles, if not a book, in your chosen field of study. JTW.

  5. Cecily JONES

    Interesting article, but I am wondering what it means when an academic historian of slavery can write an essay/article/blog about the legacy of slavery but manages to elide racial identities, despite affirming the racial basis of Atlantic slavery.

  6. Anne Kelleher

    What an enlightening article, thank you Katie. MUCH, much food for thought !

  7. Your article has opened a world of wonder for me. What ever happened to the compensation seekers in the Caribbean?

  8. I dislike the idea that a “modern” interest in slavery is reached thanks to Hollywood movies and not because it is a persistent problem that society need to address. I don’t think there’s a period of human life were we’ve been a slave free society; even when it’s pointed out to be illegal and less present in wealthier countries, still, it is because the need of said countries to consume cheap products at a speeding rate that the need for enslaved workers is a viable option for poorer countries.
    Poor people all over the world feel “enslaved” even when their circumstances don’t fill all the requirements of modern slavery.

  9. This stirred up feelings similar to those I had when I went to Caribbean for a holiday and saw the legacy of that era still alive. On the island where I stayed, I only saw black local children on the least attractive, stony strip of a run down “beach” while all the other manicured, silken stretches of sand were full of pampered tourists. It occurred to me that the local poverty was hidden because the wooden shacks where most island people lived were picturesque being covered in beautiful flowers and foliage. So easy for many to see it as paradise. Another telling image was a forgotten shack of a museum with photos of the last few Carob indians ,a race who was far as I could tell were decimated by the changes wrought by the importation of slaves.

  10. Tara Aricha

    Thanks Katie for this informative article. The part of the article that stated Katherine Hall argued that enslaved people helped maintain liberation of women. Wow, trying to ensure one person’s liberation at the expense of another person is troublesome.

  11. Ademola badekale

    Thank you for this educative and mind blowing exposition.

  12. Nwachukwu Francisca

    I find this very informing and educative.

  13. Very interesting article. I feel more and more empowered by this course for my work.

  14. Andrea Balsara

    I found this article extremely moving, uncomfortable, and honest. I think there is an eagerness on the part of a society that has benefited from the exploitation of another, to move on, to “get over it.” The eagerness is just a cover of an ugly truth: that of inherited privilege, or of inherited marginalization. If it was just a historical event, over and done with, we could study it and learn. But the effects of slavery are so far-reaching that to ignore its current manifestations mean we are just perpetuating an old evil.

    I’m from North America, and just as the past enslavement of black people continues to be the elephant in the room, the colonization of the indigenous people here continues to be largely ignored. I feel so angry when I hear people of European descent, who have clearly benefited from what happened even after many generations, think that the idea of a cultural and literal genocide in the case of indigenous people is ridiculous and overstated. There is pressure to not mention it, to not describe it as a genocide or to see its ongoing effects. I have felt frustrated in how much resistance there is to making any real reparations. And the effects of slavery, the desire to pretend it didn’t exist or wasn’t so bad, or (God help us) was done “for their own good,” continues in the form of denying the devastation it caused to a whole people. Schools that are predominantly black are terribly underfunded, and a racial bias against the president of the US has brought congress to a standstill.

    I appreciate that you are shining a light on how a grave injustice will live on until we name it, claim it, and make amends.

  15. Jacqui Ward

    My father used to preach to us from early childhood, “Money is the root of all evil”. Plus ça change!

  16. Kathy Fletcher

    Most of what I would have said has been said by others, I’m just left with two questions. The first is to do with the absentee owners of small numbers of slaves. I was wondering who took the decision to purchase, the owners or their financial advisers. In other words, how committed to the idea of slavery were those absentee owners? If ownership was just seen as a source of income, like any other investment, would that affect those owners response to abolition? Secondly, I wonder how much knowledge people in Britain had of conditions on plantations. I’m thinking of Oastler’s ‘Yorkshire Slavery’ campaign, could the campaigners have genuinely believed that child labour conditions were equivalent to/worse than the conditions of chattel slaves? Although there were economic reasons for abolition, I think that there would still have needed to be a change in the societal acceptance of slavery for the abolitionists to succeed & wondered what caused that.

  17. I was surprised at the number of women slave-owners – one would hope they were more humane with their slaves than men tended to be, but that doesn’t exonerate them. Also, there were other countries with claims to the Caribbean in the 17th century. I personally have an ancestor from France who owned a sugar plantation on St. Lucia who almost certainly had slaves – nothing to boast of. The British participation in this atrocity is only part of the story.

  18. Cecile Scaling

    Hello I have been trying for years to find out about slave owner’s thanks to you I have been able to find a Slave ownership ,that could be connected to me .

  19. Prof. Paul Silva

    Thanks Katie for the meaningful and relevant work. Can you suggest where I can find records for slave owners for Nigeria in West Africa? Much appreciated.

  20. Dear Katie,

    I think your article is well constructed and beatifully argued. I guess with such a gritty subject, a question that arises is that of motive. What has led to you producing this article, is it simply to set the record straight, or is it about moral position that as a modern society we have an obligation to self-adjust to this new-found understanding? As you can imagine, this has potential to stir up a strong sense of dissonance in the individual. I guess from listening to the Q&A between Prof Kevin Bales and Prof Monti Datta it was easy to think of action points. I am not suggesting lack of relevance but, for example, I now know that Christopher Columbus was in fact not a great man, he was a very able explorer with psychopathic tendency but, what next?

  21. Frances Kay

    This article is thought-provoking; thank you, Kate. It made me wonder how much of an emotional legacy slavery leaves in the family, even to the present day. What messages have been passed down to descendants from their ancestors, who were slaves in the 1880s? How frustrating it must be not to be able to trace back family trees or know where the family put down roots – can you put down roots in a country like Barbados when you were imported from somewhere else, there was no culture of literacy, and slave families were likely to be broken up on the whim of their owners?

  22. Gary Millsy

    a very interesting article. it also explains the increase in slave trafficking after it was abolished in 1808 and until well after 1820. although there had been a steady increase in slave numbers and slave trafficking up until around 1800, the biggest increase was when the calls for abolition were loudest and the slave trade was being made illegal and the trade disrupted. it also touched on the wider influence of slavery beyond the slaves and owners, and how it effected so many different areas of the economy and society. i would be interested to find out if slavery was a factor in areas of generational poverty. were these areas high in ex slaves that were then the new working poor? were these areas underfunded due to the higher slave/ ex slave population and the inherent racism of the ruling class? or are these areas poor because their local economy was reliant in some way on slave labour, with the abolition of slavery causing a local collapse of the economy? i have said in previous comments that developed countries support modern slavery and cheap forced labour by buying the products, and judging by this article, the practice has been going on since the beginning of slavery, and our modern economy is based a lot more on wealth made from slavery than first looks.

  23. Manuel Viniegra Vargas

    Great point. After abolition Whats next for people ? They don´t have resources and knowledge for confront their future and the consecuental discrimination from slavers and others.

  24. amagyamfuagyamfi

    i wonder what the slaveholders meant by going into slave trade with good intentions… is it how they over used the slaves or how they punished them using inhumane means??

  25. Thanks Kate. Very informative article. It is interesting how a wrong practice can remain as part of society for so long as if nobody saw the wrong it in.

  26. “The rush to commemorate abolition and the urge to forget this less than noble chapter in British history has obscured the ways in which slavery impacted on the social, political, economic and cultural landscape of Britain both during the period and beyond.” – Havng my ancestral roots in a former British colony, I am struck by how much Britain has remodelled itself to lend great emphasis to having been the frontrunners in the abolition of slave trade, and at at the same time going to great lengths to shield its darker and more unpalatable reputation for having benefitted greatly from the era of slave trade. But for the fact that Britain was involved in and indeed promoted the existence and flourishing of the slave trade, there would not have been required for Britain to champion the abolition of slave trade. Looks to me that a nation can simply change its spots, by rewriting its own history and changing the focal point! Today we have poverty ravaged post colonial nations that have not seen little in the way of compensations for the devastating effects of the slave trade whose effects have gone a long way in shaping the welfare of these countries as they are today. This can be seen in the political and social mindsets, which in turn have an effect on their econimic development.

    Thank you for this article – it really brings to the fore a lot of issues that certainly need addressing by looking into again this time with a more balanced view with reparation and rebuilding being an underlying and positive intent.

  27. Helen Nicholas

    Your article was inspiring! Sadly I feel inequality and injustice persists as shown across all spectrums of life in the UK from lack of opportunity down to base racism as shown in the EU referendum! Having visited some grand homes in England I saw for myself evidence of wealth taken from colonies! England really did get rich on the back of slavery!

  28. Dear Katie,
    thank you for this article.
    I am interested in individual slave owners living in UK. How would they have become involved in slave ownership? How would they have known it might be a good investment?
    Could you let me know how I could find out more about the individual slave owners?

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