The Abolition Movement in Great Britain


Tacky's Revolt

1760 - 1761

Occured in Jamaica.
Largest British slave uprising of the century.

Granville Sharp


Sharp rescues a previous black patient of his, Jonathan Strong, from jail and the life of slavery.

Slavery Cannot Exist in England

22 June 1772

To resolve the quarrel slave James Somerset had caused, Lord William Mansfeld made a declaration that effectively neutered slavery's presence in England itself.

Thoughts Upon Slavery


John Wesley publishes his book "Thoughts Upon Slavery" and becomes the first major religious leader to oppose slavery.

Anti-Slavery Essays


Peter Peckard (vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge) makes slavery the topic of the Cambridge Latin essay. Thomas Clarkson enters, wins, and finds himself heavily affected by the cause he had intended only to research for the prestige of winning the competition.

The Image of the Slave Trade


Thomas Clarkson discovers the brutal equipment slave owners use and purchases them for visual representations of the brutality slaves are subject to. Josiah Wedgwood creates the iconic seal of the abolition comittee: "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?"

The Abolition Reaches Parliament


Influenced by Prime Minister William Pitt and Thomas Clarkson, MP William Wilberforce agrees to lead the Abolitionist movement in parliament.

Realistic Goals

May 1787

Thomas Clark and Granville Sharp become leaders of a new influential abolitionist group that aims to end the British slave trade rather than the worldwide slave trade.

Victims of the Trade

June 1787

Thomas Clarkson travels England to begin building an anti-slavery case to present to parliament. In Bristol, he is shown that the sailors are just as negatively affected as the slaves.

The Fight Comes to Parliament

1788 - 1791

Pro and anti-slave trade committees arrived at parliament to present their cases. Each side had their own witnesses who told a different story. As part of his presentation to the MPs, Thomas Clarkson created a broucher full of anti-slavery testimonies that became the bestselling anti-slavery work of all time. These presentations and debates went on for several years.

Slave Trade Petitions

January 1788

20% of Manchester's population signed a petition against the slave trade, and this petition was sent to parliament. This was the first large petition denouncing the slave trade, and would lead to more than 60,000 Britons signing similiar pieces.

Spreading the Image


An anti-slavery comittee (originally set up by Thomas Clarkson) creates a poster depicting the slave quarters of a Liverpool ship. The image is quickly widespread and makes quite an impact on the general public.

Women Take Action

1791 - 1792

Disgusted with parliament for "turning a blind eye" to all of the anti-slavery demands, people (mostly women) stopped buying slave-trade sugar in an attempt to put pressure on the slave-trade industry. Though at least 300,000 Britons were involved in this boycott, the desired outcome wasn't achieved.

The House of Commons

3 April 1792

Egged on by the pressure of the public as well as William Wilberforce, the House of Commons voted in favour of banning the slave trade. However, the ban would take effect 4 years from the time of the vote - and when the time came, the House of Lords refused the bill entirely.

T'oussaint L'Ouverture

1793 - 1798

A war between France and Britain broke out, halting all abolition movements in Britain. However, over 5 years of combat, rebel slaves under the leadership of T'oussaint L'Ouverture forced British forces to withdraw from Haiti. This was a shocking defeat, what with the British being the world's leading slave-trade nation and military power.

British/French Slave Trade


The abolitionists rose again near the end of the war, and they now had even more supporters. Of particular interest is James Stephen, who proposed the idea that British ships should be banned from trading slaves with the French (which they had still been doing during the war under foreign flags). William Wilberforce proposed the bill to parliament - and it was passed.

Under New Management

February 1807 - March 1807

The abolitionists, driven by the thrill of victory, continued to drive the cause home. New Prime Minister Lord Grenville was sympathetic to the cause, and with his help, abolitionists were able to persuade parliament to ban British participation in the slave trade entirely.

The Domino Effect

1816 - 1832

The news of the slave trade ban in Britain raised a great amount of hope for slaves around the world - but little changed. Frusterated, slaves began to take matters into their own hands and revolt. These uprising climaxed in the largest slave revolt ever seen in British territory (1831-1832), wherein over 20,000 slaves lead by Samuel Sharpe burned more than 100 plantations. The military had a difficult time supressing this revolt, and in turn Britain became increasingly afraid of further large uprisings.

The Push to Parliament

31 July 1833

After years of slavery abolition rallies, and in face of the slave uprisings, both houses of parliament agree to end British slavery entirely. Slaves would become "apprentices" effective 1834, for the duration of 6 years (later shortened to 4).

Free At Last?

1 August 1838

At the stroke of midnight, slaves of the British empire became legally free. However, the freedom ended up changing very little. Previous slave owners received compensation, but ex-slaves received nothing; left with no valuables and no where to live, the vast majority of ex-slaves still had no choice but to work on plantations. Wages were low, and ex-slaves now had to worry about paying taxes and rent. Ex-slaves were now expected to abide by the harsh new labour laws, and prisons were built to punish those who didn't. Participants in uprisings were now executed for their crimes.