Why was The Slave Trade and Slavery abolished in the British Empire?

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Why was The Slave Trade and Slavery abolished in the British Empire?

The slave trade refers to the transatlantic trading patterns which were established as early as the mid-17th century. Trading ships would set sail from Europe with a cargo of manufactured goods to the west coast of Africa. There, these goods would be traded, over weeks and months, for captured people provided by African traders. European traders found it easier to do business with African intermediaries who raided settlements far away from the African coast and brought those young and healthy enough to the coast to be sold into slavery. In 1807, the British government passed an Act of Parliament making the trading of slaves illegal. In 1833, slavery itself was abolished in the Empire.

The role of white, middle class campaigners played a crucial, central, and pivotal role in the eventual abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire in 1807. Their role was crucial because it not only put pressure on the government and Members of Parliament to actually change the law, but it also raised awareness amongst the wider general public about the necessity to abolish this horrible trade.  For example, Granville Sharp’s campaigning raising awareness through his promotion of the court case of slave James Strong, who he helped to be made legally free. Sharp argued that slavery did not exist in Britain. The judges agreed with him and this effectively meant that African slaves in Britain were free. Also, in 1774, the religious leader, John Wesley attacked slavery. Wesley was the founder of the Methodist Church. Methodism had thousands of followers at the time in Britain’s towns and cities, especially among ordinary working people. Therefore many people eventually decided to follow Wesley and the support was constantly growing, just like support for the abolition of slavery.  As well as this, William Wilberforce made numerous speeches in Parliament to convince fellow politicians that the time was right for the law to be changed. In addition to this, one of the most high profile Abolitionists in Britain was Thomas Clarkson. From 1787 to 1789 Clarkson studied the records of the ports of Liverpool and Bristol, and more importantly managed to get first-hand accounts from slave ship captains and ex-slaves of the conditions on board slave ships. He also examined facts and figures collected about the trade such as the conditions on ships, the way the slaves were treated and particularly, the death rate. Clarkson also managed to buy a collection of clubs, whips, traps and other devices used to punish slaves on the plantations. He also made many models of the ships the slaves travelled on. By publishing his findings, it shocked the British public and generated much support for the abolitionist cause.

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Another important reason that helps to show why the slave trade was ended in 1807 was because of the actions of black people themselves, both slave and non-slave. Their actions were important because they drew attention to how slaves were being treated. This had the effect of influencing public opinion as well as encouraging white middle class campaigners, such as William Wilberforce and black campaigners, such as Olaudah Equiano to continue their fight for change. This meant that by 1807, Parliament was under increasing pressure to abolish the trade. Some former slaves who had run away also eventually helped to ...

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