Abolition of Slavery

In Britain, Quakers had first petitioned Parliament for the abolition of Slave Trade in 1783; WILLIAM WILBERFORCE became the driving force of the abolitionist movement. When the Continental System, implemented in 1806, had a devastating impact on the Caribbean plantation industry (the main market for African slaves), British parliament banned the transantlantic slave trade and began enforcing that ban, establishing Freetown in Sierra Leone as a colony for the settlement of freed slaves. The abolitionist movement also took root in New England, and an American initiative established the colony of Liberia for the same purpose (1821, released into independence 1847). Actually, Denmark had outlawed slave trade as early as 1792, a law which took effect in 1802.
France temporarily abolished slavery during the French Revolution (1794-1802). Slavery was abolished in Spain and her colonies (except Cuba, where the abolition could not be enforced due to the resistance of the local plantation owners) in 1811. The British Parliament abolished slavery in 1834, compensating the former owners for their loss and requiring the liberated slaves to stay on the plantations, as paid workers, for another 10 years. In 1848, France terminated the institution of slavery, without compensation, and joined the British in suppressing transantlantic slave trade; the French founded Libreville in Gabon as a settlement for liberated slaves. France even granted the inhabitants of the 4 communes in Senegal French citizenship - the communes elected representatives to France's parliament.

Sweden abolished slavery in 1843, Denmark in 1848. It took the Netherlands until 1863 to abolish slavery in her colonies, that year Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the U.S.; Cuba abolished slavery formally in 1870/1886 (the abolition was now profitable to the former owners, as they hired the former slaves as day labourers in times of high labour demand), Brazil after the revolution of 1888.

Biography of William Wilberforce, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Slavery - a Timeline, from BBC Timeline
Studies in the World History of Slave Trade, Abolition and Emancipation, from h-net
The Slave Trade, from Spartacus Internet Encyclopedia
Prohibition of Danish Slave Trade, from Anti Slavery Society

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on October 30th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

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