A Society Built On Slavery

A new database shares information about every slave-owner in the British Caribbean, Mauritius or the Cape at the moment of abolition in 1833.

In 1833 Parliament abolished slavery. The slave trade had been abolished in 1807 but it had taken another 26 years to effect the emancipation of the enslaved. The legislation of 1833 was the result of a combination of factors. The negotiated settlement brought emancipation - but only with a grant of £20 million (£16 billion in today’s money) in compensation, to be paid by the British taxpayers to slave owners. Approximately half of the £20 million stayed in Britain. A commissioned group of officials decided who should receive what money and on what basis. They documented all claims made and all monies disbursed.

These compensation records provide us with a snapshot of slave ownership, telling us about the proportion of Britain’s 19th-century wealth that was linked to slavery: 10-20% of Britain’s wealthy can be identified as having had significant links to slavery.

Please browse the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database, created by a research team that included one of your course educators. Dr. Katie Donington. You might want to search for individual names companies or cities (using the drop-down search menu for Individuals, Firms and Addresses). Or you might want to browse the legacy strands.

Please post any interesting findings in the comments below. For example, did you find evidence of slave ownership in your own town or city (if you are based in the UK)? If you are not based in the UK, did you find that certain kinds of companies had a particularly high number of claims - or any other observation?

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This article is from the free online course:

Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition

The University of Nottingham