Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

THE SLAVE TRADE, ABOLITION AND PUBLIC MEMORY

Abstract
ABSTRACT

The bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 prompted a remarkable wave of public commemorations across Britain. In contrast to the low-key events of 1907, 2007 saw a sustained and nation-wide urge to commemorate, publicise and discuss the Atlantic slave trade and its abolition. Government interest proved an important influence, and was reflected in a lively educational debate (resulting in changes to the National Curriculum.) This political interest may have stemmed from the parallel debate about modern human trafficking, and contemporary slave systems. Equally, the availability of funding (from the Heritage Lottery Fund) may have persuaded a host of institutions to devise exhibitions, displays and debates about events of 1807. Perhaps the most striking forms of commemoration were in broadcasting and publishing: the BBC was especially active. There were few regions or localities which remained unaffected by the year's commemorations.

But why was there such interest? Was 1807, with the outlawing of an unquestioned evil, seen as a moment of national virtue? But if so, how are we to recall the role played by the British in the perfection of Atlantic slavery and the slave trade? The lively debates in 2007, from major national institutions to small local gatherings, revealed the problematic nature of abolition itself. After all, slavery survived, and even the slave trade continued after 1807. So what was important about 1807? The commemorations of 2007 raised public awareness about an important transformation in the British past; it also exposed those intellectual and political complexities about the ending of the Atlantic slave trade which have proved so fascinating to academic historians.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

S. D. Smith , Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic. The World of the Lascelles, 1648–1834 (Cambridge, 2006)

Seymour Drescher , Capitalism and Antislavery (Pittsburgh, 1986)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • ISSN: 0080-4401
  • EISSN: 1474-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/transactions-of-the-royal-historical-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 44 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 255 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.