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1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade

In the 18th century a brutal trade network transported kidnapped Africans to European colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean to work as slaves, mostly on plantations. In 1787, campaigners against slavery such as Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp founded the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, believing that ending the trade was the first step towards eradicating slavery completely. They raised awareness about conditions (including with publications from former slaves such as Olaudah Equiano), boycotted slave-produced goods and petitioned Parliament.

In Parliament, the campaign was led by William Wilberforce. It was only after many failed attempts that, in 1807, the slave trade in the British Empire was abolished. However, slaves in the colonies (excluding areas ruled by the East India Company) were not freed until 1838 – and only after slave-owners, rather than the slaves themselves, received compensation.

The Modern Slavery Bill demonstrates that this issue remains live today.