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The Slave Trade and Abolition

March 2007 was the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act which made slave trading in British ships illegal.

British slave traders, up to that point, had transported more African people across the Atlantic than any other nation. Abolitionists in Britain, both black and white, had fought a unique public campaign to end the trade.

 The abolition of the trade did not bring about the immediate emancipation of enslaved people in British colonies. In some Caribbean territories this took place in 1833 (followed by a period of 'Apprenticeship'), although in other areas of the empire emancipation came later.

Heroes of the Slave Trade Abolition print
Heroes of the Slave Trade Abolition print shows Zachary Macaulay with Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, Thomas Fowell Buxton and Thomas Clarkson. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London


The transatlantic slave trade was one of the largest forced migrations of human beings across the globe and had a major effect on the history of Africa, the Americas and Europe. The legacy of this history still has an impact on countries around the Atlantic today but this has often gone unacknowledged. 2007 offered an opportunity to share our understandings of this legacy.

For the first time we have researched connections between the transatlantic slave trade and properties in English Heritage's care and you can read the reports in this section.

In a further action to reveal the fuller story of England's history, we have also reviewed formal descriptions of listed buildings to acknowledge historic links to transatlantic slavery and the abolitionist movement.

As a contribution to the Bicentenary commemorations, we published here the 'Sites of Memory' guide to a selection of the many historic buildings and sites with a link to the history of the slave trade, of black people brought to England through this trade, and of the abolition struggle.

Other activities which you can discover more about here include:

  • community projects telling the often-hidden histories of the contribution to England’s heritage by minority groups
  • educational materials
  • Information about the links between Lord Mansfield, Dido Belle, and Kenwood House.

Also of interest...