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It may seem extraordinary today but, just less than 200 years ago, many people throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas saw nothing wrong in the idea that one human being could own another. The ‘owned' person or ‘slave' had no rights.

In this section: 

You will find background information on the history of African enslavement: how the Transatlantic Slave Trade developed, British involvement in the Slave Trade, how a movement arose to try to abolish it and the opposition they faced.

Picture Gallery

Horrors of Slavery
What is Slavery?
Slavery refers to a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live and at what they work. Slavery had previously existed throughout history, in many times...
The Kingdom of Kongo. Depopulation from slave trading eventually led to the end of the kingdom.
Africa Before Transatlantic Slavery
Many Europeans thought that Africa's history was not important. They argued that Africans were inferior to Europeans and they used this to help justify slavery. However, the reality was very...
The Arrival of European Traders
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European traders started to get involved in the Slave Trade. European traders had previously been interested in African nations and kingdoms,...
The Slave Trade
The Triangular Trade
The Transatlantic Slave Trade had three stages:  STAGE...
The Middle Passage
The Middle Passage
The Middle Passage refers to the part of the trade where Africans, densely packed onto ships, were transported across the Atlantic to the West Indies.  The voyage...
On the sugar plantations
On the Plantations
When enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas, they were often alone, separated from their family and community, unable to communicate with those around them. The following...
Boarding the slave ship
British Involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade
For well over 300 years, European countries forced Africans onto slave ships and transported them across the Atlantic Ocean. The first European nation to engage in the...
Anti-Slavery Society
The development of an Abolition Movement
Why did it take so long?  Although there was always resistance from the enslaved people themselves, amongst the British population at...
The pro-slavers described the life of an enslaved person as better than they would have had in Africa
The Pro-Slavery Lobby
What was the Pro-Slavery or West India Lobby?In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the production of sugar in Britain's West Indian...
Election Pamphlet by the Abolition Society 1831
Arguments and Justifications
What were the arguments of the pro-slavery lobby?The pro-slavery lobby put forward a number of arguments to defend the trade and show how...
First page of 1807 bill
The 1807 Act and its effects
Why the abolition of the Slave Trade and not Slavery?The members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade decided to...
Ending of Slavery
Why was Slavery finally abolished in the British Empire?
In July 1833, a Bill to abolish slavery throughout the British...
HMS Black Joke (a former slave ship) capturing El Almirante in 1829. With kind permission of RNM.
Suppressing the trade
After the 1807 act, the British no longer participated in the slave-trade but illegal traders continued to smuggle enslaved people to the British West Indies, and to plantations owned by...
Slavery Timeline
The timeline provides a visual record of the progress of Trans-atlantic Slavery and the movement to abolish it. Events are classified into different...
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