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conceptual mapping >  cultures and identities  > The wider historical context of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade


The wider historical context of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade

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Trade in African slaves underpinned the British economy in the 18th century: the rich and powerful, the monarchy and the Church. So why was an enterprise that was so economically important ended so abruptly in the first decade of the 19th century? Hakim Adi explains...

In March 2007 large-scale commemorative events were organised to mark the bi-centenary of the parliamentary act to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

This unprecedented commemoration of a historical event, in which the British government itself is playing a leading role, was difficult to avoid.

There has been a frenzy in the British media. We have seen government publications (allegedly designed to enlighten the public); meetings and exhibitions; a debate in parliament; an apology from London’s mayor; the issuing of postage stamps; a service in Westminster Abbey; and release of the film Amazing Grace which promotes the well-established myth that abolition was largely due to the efforts of the Hull-based MP William Wilberforce.

It would be hoped that owing to the vast amount of information that is being disseminated, everyone would be now disabused of such erroneous views; and would be able to place both the so-called abolition and the centuries of trafficking of human flesh from Africa in historical perspective. The commemorative events certainly provide the opportunity for broad and in depth discussion of Britain’s history and the crimes against humanity committed over many centuries. Read the article

date of on-line publication : 26 June 2007

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