Thomas Clarkson's Travelling Chest

Contributed by Wisbech and Fenland Museum

The Clarkson Chest and its contents Copyright Wisbech& Fenland Museum

Clarkson used the chest as a 'travelling museum' in his campaign against slavery throughout the UK and internationallyThomas Clarkson was one of the principal architects of the anti-slavery movement and led an extraordinary campaign against the trade. As a student at Cambridge in 1784, Clarkson travelled 35,000 miles in his relentless campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, which absorbed his life. To gather evidence he interviewed many sailors involved with the trade and acquired many items. These objects demonstrated the cruelty of the trade and also indicated through a range of cultural artefacts and natural products that an alternative trade could be established - all of this Clarkson used as a visual aid in his campaign addresses and speeches. It is suggested that the propaganda tools and strategy he used in his campaign helped develop the prototype for modern campaigning to influence public opinion and could be regarded as a prime mover in the UK's first national campaign for human rights.

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