Government steps

After Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, the British Royal Navy's 'West Africa Squadron' patrolled the Atlantic Ocean trying to stop the trade. The British also signed anti-slavery treaties with many African rulers.

Support inside Parliament

Prominent MPs such as Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox, largely supported Wilberforce and the abolitionist cause.

The MP Sir William Dolben supported parliamentary reform and the abolition of slavery. With the support of other abolitionists, Dolben had put forward a Bill in 1788 to regulate conditions on board slave ships, which was passed into law by a large majority.

Support outside Parliament

The Knight vs Wedderburn 1788 legal case in Edinburgh ruled that slavery was not compatible with Scots Law.

An estimated minimum of 300,000 people in Britain boycotted sugar grown using the labour of enslaved people in the early 1790s. The sale of sugar from India increased more than tenfold in this time.

Pro-abolition campaigners also wrote letters and presented petitions to Parliament.

The spring of 1792 saw an outpouring of public feeling against the slave trade throughout the country. In the space of a few weeks, 519 petitions for abolishing the slave trade arrived at Parliament, signed by more than 390,000 people.

The video below describes the role of the working class and women in the abolitionist campaigns.