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Anti-slavery movement, Britain

Jason M. Kelly


The abolition of slavery in Britain and its Atlantic empire was a protracted process that took centuries to accomplish. While historians often focus on one element of the anti-slavery movement – the abolition campaigns of the late eighteenth century – anti-slavery resistance was, in fact, a much more complex phenomenon that ranged from slave resistance to evangelical pressure to mass boycotts and petitioning. The diversity of anti-slavery resistance in the early modern period necessitates that scholars understand the end of slavery in Britain as the accomplishment of many grassroots movements rather than that of a single, monolithic organization of middling reformers. The abolition of slavery in the British Atlantic took place in three phases. The first phase, lasting roughly from the seventeenth century to the 1770s, saw the expansion of the British slave trade and the earliest, decentralized anti-slavery resistance. The second phase, from the 1770s to 1807, witnessed the rise of massive British support for the abolition of the slave trade, which many leaders believed was the first step in bringing an end to the institution of slavery. The third phase, between 1808 and 1838, brought the legal emancipation of slaves in the British Atlantic world. By the end of the sixteenth century, English traders were actively participating in the transatlantic slave trade. With the establishment ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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