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On This Day (No. 2) – Britain Abolishes the Slave Trade


On March 25, 1807, Britain prohibited the slave trade in the United Kingdom by enacting the Slave Trade Act. This legislation is more formally known as “An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade”.

Research shows that although slavery occurred in Britain before the Roman rule, the Atlantic slave trade approximately began in Britain during the beginning of the 1600s. Before the slave trade, Western civilizations from European countries, including Britain, began to establish settlements in African and Caribbean countries to harvest their resources. These settlers began to export goods, including gold and ivory, to their native countries. Eventually, settlers turned to Native African peoples to conduct the labour for them. The majority of these workers were eventually sold by slave traders and transported to the New World.


The Atlantic Slave Trade came fully in effect during the mid-17th century.

Essentially, the Slave Trade route began in Europe. Slave traders would travel with a cargo of manufactured goods to the west coast of Africa. There, these goods were exchanged for captured people. Once the ship was full, the European trader’s ship would depart for the Americas or the Caribbean. Slave trader ships commonly travelled through the infamous ‘Middle Passage’ route. This route took slaves from the west coast of West Africa to either the Americas or the Caribbean.

Source: The Society Pages

During this voyage, the slaves would be kept in the ship’s hold. More often than not, they crammed close together with little or no space to move. Many slaves did not survive the months-long travel due to the poor conditions on the ship. The slaves that made it to the New World obliged to work on plantations to harvest commodities such as sugar, cotton and tobacco. It is concluded that, by the 1790s, approximately 480,000 people were enslaved by the British Colonies.

The abolitionist movement in Britain emerged in the 18th century.


The Britain Abolitionist Society began to inform the Britain public about the inhumanity of slavery. The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave Trade was also vocal about the prohibition of slavery in Britain. They argued that slavery was inhumane. While many Britains wanted to continue the trade, there were community groups that petitioned Parliament to prohibit slavery. This battle for abolishment continued until the 19th century. At this time, Lord William Grenville made a speech about how slavery contradicted basic human rights. When the proposal to end slavery was presented in the early 1800s, the majority voted in favour of the bill.

On 25 March 1807, the British government enacted the Slave Trade Act.

Source: Wikipedia.

This Act outlawed participation in the slave trade in Britain. Slavery was not officially abolished in Britain until 1833 when the Slavery Abolition Act was enacted.

Unfortunately, there are still forms of modern-day slavery that occur in regions around the world.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that impacts men and women from various cultural backgrounds. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, there is an upward trend in human trafficking internationally. These statistics show that the identification of human trafficking victims and the conviction of traffickers are increasing as well.

Research and education about human trafficking are increasing which helps the process of prosecuting traffickers and aiding victims. On the other hand, there are still large gaps in the scope of data about human trafficking. This data is necessary for helping legislative bodies and law enforcement practitioners to understand human trafficking.


In addition to providing data to lawmakers to create anti-human trafficking laws, we need this data to debunk the myths about human trafficking. These myths are dangerous because they produce a culture about human trafficking that is ineffective in aiding victims in their transition back into society.

These conversations are difficult to have, but they are important if we aim to create a society that is safe for everyone.

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