Revisiting Slavery

Some family history, written for Prospect magazine.

Two hundred years ago, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed. British captains caught continuing the trade were fined £100 for every slave found aboard their ships. It was not a particularly effective piece of legislation: many slavers who found themselves under a naval frigate’s guns found it more economical simply to throw their cargo overboard. But even the risk of that wasn’t high—after 1807 at least 82,000 slaves left the coast of Africa and most of those made it to the Caribbean. As its name suggests, the act didn’t abolish the owning of slaves, merely their trade. It would take another act, 27 years later, to initiate emancipation by making slavery illegal. All this is well known. And yet the act certainly did mark the beginning of the end for African slavery. As such, it is right that we remember it. In doing so, however, we should not forget that in hastening the demise of one form of slavery, the act gave birth to another. 

Read the full article here.