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1 October 2014
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Abolition of the Slave Trade

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Timeline 1770-1807


The abolitionist campaigner Granville Sharpe collects evidence to show that slavery is not compatible with English Law.


The Somersett legal case in London: Chief Justice Lord Mansfield rules that slaves in England cannot be forced to return to the West Indies.


American War of Independence.


The Knight vs Wedderburn legal case in Edinburgh rules that slavery is not compatible with Scots law.


The Zong case: 131 African captives were thrown overboard from the slave ship Zong and drowned. The case is heard as an insurance dispute not a murder trial and this strengthens the abolition campaign.


Thomas Clarkson’s 'An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species’ is published.


The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is founded.

'Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery' by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, an ex-slave, is published.


The Dolben Act limits the number of captives a ship is permitted to carry but conditions remain appalling.


French Revolution.

'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African’ is published.


William Wilberforce presents the first Bill to abolish the slave trade to the House of Commons, but it is not passed.

A slave revolt on the French-controlled island of Saint Domingue is led by Toussaint Breda or L'Ouverture.


House of Commons votes in favour of the abolition of the slave trade but Wilberforce’s Bill is rejected by the House of Lords.


Outbreak of French Revolutionary War between Britain and France delays the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade.


France abolishes slavery and frees all slaves in her colonies.

US Congress forbids American ships from being used in the slave trade.


Second Maroon War in Jamaica ends in defeat for the Maroons.

Fédon’s slave revolt in Grenada is defeated by British troops in 1796.

Slave revolt in St Vincent results in expulsion of Black Caribs from the island in 1796.


Napoleon seizes power in France and restores slavery in the French colonies.


Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, is taken prisoner by French and dies in captivity.


On 1st January Saint Domingue is declared the republic of Haiti, the first independent black state outside Africa.

Denmark passes a law against the slave trade.


Britain passes a law declaring the buying, selling and transporting of slaves illegal (but slave ownership continues).

The USA bans the slave trade.

Britain declares Sierra Leone in West Africa a colony.

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