British Empire and the Slave Trade

Timeline adapted from the British Library and Historic England – This is not an exhaustive timeline. If you notice any irregularities or important events have not been included, please get in touch.

1562 First recorded British slaving voyage to Africa
The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-trade by the British Parliament (free Ebook available), p51 onwards, history of the slave trade in Empire.
Slavery and the British Transatlantic Slave Trade (available online), National Archives overview of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, inclusion of records.
Africa and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (available online), BBC overview written by Dr Hakim Adi.
The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You, (available on YouTube), TED-Ed video highlighting lesser known information.

1672 The Royal Africa Company (RAC) granted charter to regulate the slave trade
What was the RAC? (available online), explains the role of the RAC.

1686 Lloyds of London Established
Insuring the Transatlantic Slave Trade (available at CambridgeCore), notes the role of Lloyds in insuring martime activity and slave trading.
The City of London and Slavery: Evidence from the First Dock Companies, 1795-1800 (available on Jstor), connects London businesses to the slave trade economy.
– Slavery, Insurance, and Sacrifice in the Black Atlantic (available online), explores the role of insurance in the slave trade.

1698 The RAC lost its monopoly and private traders from Bristol and Liverpool began trading
The Decline of the Royal African Company: Fringe Firms and the Role of the Charter (available on Jstor), explores the rise and fall of the RAC and their exploits.
Legacies of the Slave Trade (available online), BBC publication exploring the role of Bristol.
Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (available online), Bristol Free Museums discussion of the city’s involvement in the trade, written by Madge Dresser Hon. Professor of History at the University of Bristol.
Bristol, the slave trade and a reckoning with the past (available online), explores remaining issues in the city.
Bristol and the Slave Trade (available online), a series of pamphlets investigating the connection of Bristol to the slave trade, issued by the University of Bristol.
Liverpool’s role in the slave trade (available online), BBC publication concerning the city and its role in the trade.
Records Relating to the Slave Trade at the Liverpool Record Office (available online), British Online Archives records of the slave trade.

1730 First Maroon War in Jamaica
Jamaican Maroon Political Organisation: The Effects of the Treaties (available at Jstor), explores the conflict from both sides.
The Jamaican Maroons (available online), from the National Library of Jamaica, notes differences in colonial records of the war.
Maroon History (available online), gives a historical overview of the Maroons, created by the Maroon Sovereignty Project.

1739 Treaty confirms free status of escapees in the First Maroon War
Articles of Pacification with the Maroons of Trelawney Town, (available online), created by the Maroon Sovereignty Project.
The Maroons and Freedom in Jamaica, (available online), Masters thesis exploring the conflict and resolution.
From Violence to Alliance: Maroons and White Settlers in Jamaica (available at Taylor&Francis), navigation of alliance after the treaty.

1760 Slave revolts in Jamaica (Tacky’s Revolt)
Jamaica, 1760: Tacky’s Revolt (book available at ACLS Humanities), pp 125-139, detailed account of the revolt.
– Tacky’s Revolt, The Story of an Atlantic Slave War. Harvard University Press.
Dr Vincent Brown on “Tacky’s Revolt” (available on YouTube), discussion of his book.

1772 The Somerset case ruled it was unlawful to take a slave from England to the colonies
Lord Mansfield and the Legitimacy of Slavery, (pdf available online), explores the case and outcome in detail, noting the outcome did not free slaves but give them basic rights.
The Somerset Case and the Abolition of Slavery in England, (available on Jstor), detailed exploration of the case.
The Case of James Somerset, (available on YouTube), historians discuss and explain the case.

1783 Over 130 slaves are thrown overboard so owners can claim insurance money
– The Zong in the Context of the Eighteenth Century Slave Trade, (available at Taylor&Francis), explanation of the event and its place in the wider context of the slave trade.
– The Zong: A Massacre, the Law and the End of Slavery, Yale University Press. An exploration of the event and its subsequent effect on the abolition of slavery.
The Zong: Legal, Social and Historical Dimensions (available at Taylor&Francis), exploration of the legal ramifications for the tragedy.

1783 Anti-slavery British Quakers form a committee opposing the trade
The Unsung Heroes of Abolition (available online), BBC brief explanation of the Quaker involvement.
Quakers and Abolition (available on Jstor), 14 chapters exploring the role of Quakers in abolition, both for and against.
– Abolition Journeys (available online), resource created by British Quakers to remember the 200th anniversary of the slave trade. Includes a timeline of events.

1787 The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave Trade is founded in London
Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (available online), overview of the group and their successes.
Minutes of the Committee for the abolition of the slave trade (available online).

1791 First Abolition Bill is rejected by Parliament
The 1807 Act and Its Effects (available online), notes the original rejection.

1795 Second Maroon War in Jamaica
A War of Words (available online), explores power relations of imperial communication.
The Jamaican Maroons (available online), from the National Library of Jamaica, notes differences in colonial records of the war.

1795 Fedon’s Rebellion in Grenada
Fedon’s Rebellion 1795-96: Causes and Consequences (available at Jstor).
A Reassertion of Rights: Fedon’s Rebellion, Grenada, 1795-96 (available online), explores the history of Grenada and the cause of the rebellion.
The Role of the Enslaved in the ‘Fedon Rebellion’ of 1795 (available at Taylor&Francis), reinstates the cost of lives for slaves and the reasons they joined.

1807 Transatlantic slave trade abolished by Parliament
Abolition (available online), BBC resources exploring the abolition of slavery, key people and the world after.
1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade (available online), Parliament explanation of the Bill.
Interview with Maria Amidu (available online), Parliament interview regarding the abolition of the slave trade.

1833 The Abolition of Slavery Act passed by Parliament, slavery outlawed in all British territories
Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (available online).
British Anti-Slavery (available online), Dr John Oldfield explores the reform for the BBC.

1837 Slave Compensation Act
The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (available online), explores the compensation given to British slave owners.
An Uncomfortable Truth (available online), BBC resources, shows the breakdown of who claimed compensation.
Legacies of British Slave-Ownership (available online), UCL led project, provides a history of the trade and a database of owners.

Further Reading:
The Horrors of Slavery, Robert Wedderburn.

See also: Britain’s Civil Rights Movements

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