Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America

Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America

Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America

Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America


Slavery and the British Empire provides a clear overview of the entire history of British involvement with slavery and the slave trade, from the Cape Colony to the Caribbean. The book combines economic, social, political, cultural, and demographic history, with a particular focus on the Atlantic world and the plantations of North America and the West Indies from the mid-seventeenth century onwards.

Kenneth Morgan analyses the distribution of slaves within the empire and how this changed over time; the world of merchants and planters; the organization and impact of the triangular slave trade; the work and culture of the enslaved; slave demography; health and family life; resistance and rebellions; the impact of the anti-slavery movement; and the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807 and of slavery itself in most of the British empire in 1834.

As well as providing the ideal introduction to the history of British involvement in the slave trade, this book also shows just how deeply embedded slavery was in British domestic and imperial history - and just how long it took for British involvement in slavery to die, even after emancipation.


This short book provides an overview of slavery, the slave trade, and abolitionism in the British Empire over a period of two hundred years from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth. These are subjects of perennial historical interest and, moreover, ones that have accumulated a vast historiography. It is no exaggeration to say that over the past forty years some of the finest scholarship published in any historical field has been devoted to these topics. Historians have used interdisciplinary techniques and have unearthed much new data in an effort to come to grips with a diasporic experience that had wide geographic scope, vast numeric scale, and deep human impact. My book is aimed at the educated reader with no detailed knowledge of the subjects discussed. Accordingly, I have provided only light referencing, mainly identifying direct quotations embedded in the text. Some of these are taken from manuscript sources consulted in relation to more detailed projects. A select bibliography of major works on British slavery and abolitionism is appended for readers who want to follow up this book with more detailed reading.

As is always the case with a broad overview, the book depends on the labours of many fine historians. My debts to the leading scholars of slavery and abolitionism can be seen throughout my chapters. At the same time, the book reflects my long teaching and research experience of the subjects discussed, especially in lectures and classes delivered over many years to students at Brunel University. In a relatively short book, I have had to present concentrated arguments without many digressions, but I hope this does not mean that my analyses are too tight or too abbreviated. Plenty of statistics, ratios, and percentages underpin the arguments presented, so that the reader is aware of the scale and dimensions of the topic discussed. But I have often expressed the statistics in words rather than in tables and graphs because that seemed appropriate for a general text of this nature. Specialists will note omissions and inevitably there will be errors of commission. I hope they find something useful, however, in what I have written.

One important strategic decision affects the coverage of the book. It concentrates more on slavery and the slave trade in the British Atlantic world than on British involvement in slavery in other parts of the . . .

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