History KS3 / KS4: The case of James Somerset and the beginning of the end of slavery

A look at the use of habeus corpus to prevent the transportation of a slave out of the country in 1771, which ended slavery in England.

It was used as a case by abolitionist Granville Sharp to challenge the legality of Slavery.

Arthur Torrington a slavery historian explains the story of James Somerset.

The case was passed to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield.

Both abolitionists and slave traders were well represented.

Somerset was freed and the significance of the judgement of Lord Mansfield was that it marked the start of freedom for all the slaves in England.

Teacher Notes

Students could identify the key words while watching the clip.

They could categorise how Lord Mansfield might have seen the case from the questions posed in the clip. What does the law say? What did his heart say?

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching History. This topic appears in OCR, AQA, Edexcel, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.