A Timeline on the overthrow of colonial slavery, the British abolition laws, and the aftermath

Below is the first public draft by CLS of a timeline designed to contribute to the growing movement to decolonise the curriculum. It centres around the British abolition of the slave trade and slavery laws as these tend to be the most familiar ‘colonial’ issues presented to students and teachers in UK schools. However, British abolition laws are often not dealt with either in the context of the wider history of British colonialism nor in foregrounding the central role of the enslaved in the struggle for abolition. Also, important though they were, the passing of laws for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery did not mean the end of involvement by British merchants and financiers in territories where slavery and slave trading persisted. Neither did abolition result in the ending of ‘sweated labour’ practices in the British Isles or Britain’s Empire and spheres of influence, e.g. expanded use of indenture workers from India and China post 1838.

Consequently, this first draft timeline includes entries, some of which point to a wider historical context when considering abolition, and others that are not strictly or directly about abolition. The hope is that by drawing attention to the links between various aspects of British colonial history and abolition, this draft timeline, on the one hand, will inform and encourage learning and research, and, on the other, will promote the involvement of CLS website readers.

We invite you to both assist and advise us about the entries on the timeline and help us to produce improved timelines and other learning materials.
Email address: decolonising@cls-uk.org.uk

A Timeline on the overthrow of colonial slavery, the British abolition laws, and the aftermath

1492 – 1900 it is estimated that in this period in the Americas there were in total, 2.5 to 5 million indigenous slaves, of which 147,000 – 340,000 were enslaved in North America

1500 – 1800 In the 16th century, more than five million ‘Indigenous Americans’ lived in the conterminous United States area (Thornton). By the beginning of the nineteenth century, that number had been reduced 90% to 600,000

1700 – 1820 Drop in population of West Africa in the slave taking zone estimated at 5 million (i.e. 20% of 1700 figure)

1713 – 1790
1713 Britain: The Peace of Utrecht ended the War of the Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne’s War. Britain gains the Asiento contract to supply slaves to Spanish colonies, ‘The El Dorado of commerce’. This is often seen as an important step in Britain coming to dominate the slave trade.

1735 British North American Colony of Georgia partially banned slavery. This was temporary as slavery was reinstated 1749. By 1776 there were 18,000 enslaved people in Georgia.

1733 – 39 Jamaica: Nanny was one of the principal rebel leaders in the First Maroon War in Jamaica

1753 A book, “A voyage to Guinea”, reports on the crucial role of an enslaved female accomplice to Tomba, leader of a slave rebellion on board the ship “Robert” of Bristol.

1757 India: Battle of Plassey or Palashi. Victory for the British East India Company’s forces and the subsequent takeover of Bengal, is often taken as the start of the British Empire in India. The British East India Company (at different times called: The Honourable East India Company, or East India Company, or English East India Company, or East India Trading Company) was initial started in 1600.

1760 – 1870 England: about 7 million acres (about one sixth the area of England) were changed, by some 4,000 acts of parliament, from common land to enclosed land. (ref 37, the land magazine). The main arguments of those in favour of enclosure were:
(i) that the open field system prevented “improvement”, for example the introduction of clover, turnips and four course rotations, because individuals could not innovate;
(ii) that the waste lands and common pastures were “bare-worn” or full of scrub, and overstocked with half-starved beasts;
(iii) that those who survived on the commons were (a) lazy and (b) impoverished (in other words “not inclined to work for wages”), and that enclosure of the commons would force them into employment.
The issue of ‘improvement’ was also used to drive indigenous people off their land in British colonies in North America.
The main arguments of those against enclosure were:
(i) that the common pastures and waste lands were the mainstay of the independent poor; when they were overgrazed, that was often as a result of overstocking by the wealthiest commoners who were the people agitating for enclosure
(ii) that enclosure would engross already wealthy landowners, force poor people off the land and into urban slums, and result in depopulation. (the land magazine)1760 Jamaica: Tacky rebellion of enslaved people in Jamaica. 400 ‘rebels’ executed.

1760 Britain: Quakers ban slave-trading amongst their followers.

1765 Jamaica: A former participant in the Tacky rebellion, Blackwell, helped organise another rebellion. Though thirteen rebels were executed and 33 transported, a further rebellion occurred the following year, which also resulted in executions and transportations.

1765 Granville Sharp involvement in notable cases in Britain of the former enslaved person, Johnathan Strong

1769-70 India: Great Bengal Famine (some estimates for number of deaths are as high as 10 million)

1772 Granville Sharp involvement in notable cases in Britain of the former enslaved person, James Somerset. Slave law in the British colony of Jamaica was not applicable in Britain.

1775-83 American Revolution/ American War of Independence

1775 British North American Colonies: Virginia Governor, Lord Dunmore, invites enslaved people to dessert ‘disloyal’ slave owners and join British forces. This prompted several hundred desertions on the one hand and military preparations by the Continental Congress on the other.

1776 British North American Colonies: Though left out of the final version of the ‘Declaration of Independence’, an early draft by slave owner Thomas Jefferson, included criticism of the King for endorsing a British slave trade.

1777 Leading abolitionist activist, Olaudah Equiano, arrived in Britain

1779 Some Yorkshire MPs propose a ban on the slave trade (pages 95, 133 Blackburn 1988)

1781 Granville Sharp involvement in notable cases in Britain Liverpool slaving ship ‘The Zong’

1783-4 Chalisa Indian Famine

1787 Granville Sharp, involvement in Founding of the ‘Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade’. Other prominent early members included Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce .

1787 Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species by prominent abolitionist leader, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano published.

1788 Britain: hundreds of meetings against the slave trade (some against slavery as well) were held. Where 80 years earlier there had been hundreds of petitions to parliament from port areas to widened slave trading, numerous petitions were now being signed against the slave trade itself. In 1792 an anti-slave trade petition with 400,000 signatures was presented to parliament.

1789 The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African by Olaudah Equiano Published. Like Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Equiano was a member of the abolitionist group of Africans resident in Britain, ‘Sons of Africa’.

1789 France: Start of the French revolution
1791 – 1806

1791 Revolution of the enslaved in Haiti starts

1791 First Parliamentary Bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade defeated in the House of Commons

1791-2 Doji bara Indian famine

1792 Second Parliamentary Bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade, defeated in the House of Lords

1792 The radical working class London Corresponding Society formed. Leading abolitionist activist, Olaudah Equiano, was a member.

1793 Third Parliamentary Bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade defeated

1794 France: decreed that slavery was outlawed in its colonies (temporarily as it transpired). ‘The National Convention declares slavery abolished in all the colonies. In consequence it declares that all men, without distinction of colour, domiciled in the colonies, are French citizens and enjoy all the rights assured under the Constitution.’

1794 -99 Caribbean conflict: The new French republic’s anti-slavery policy in the Eastern Caribbean aided the newly form Black republic of Haiti in its fight with Royalists, Spain, and British forces. British losses 80,000.

1794-99 The British sent more combat troops to the Caribbean than Europe and were obliged to commit 45,000 of its troops to the Eastern Caribbean, thus easing the burden on Haiti.

1795 French constitution included in the declaration of the Rights of Man that slavery was abolished.

1795 – 96 Fedon’s Rebellion in Grenada

1795 – 96 second Maroon War in Jamaica

1796 Sri Lanka: Start of the British takeover of ‘Ceylon’

1797 -1804 Britain: The National Committee of the Abolition Society did NOT meet.

1797 British take the ‘Spanish’ Island of Trinidad

1797-1800 USA: divisions within the USA political elite included the attitude to a French inclusion of an emancipation policy and a short period of ‘Quasi-War’ between the USA and France. (Blackburn, 2013, p. 238)

1798 Toussaint L’Ouverture wins full control of Haiti

1800 -1890 estimated indigenous population of USA dropped from 600,000 to 228,000

1800 the Acts of Union 1800 brought 100 Irish MPs into Parliament, most of whom supported abolition.

1800 Under the secret ‘Third Treaty of San Ildefonso’ the Spanish Empire and the French Republic  agreed in principle to exchange the ‘Spanish’ North American colony of Louisiana for territories in Tuscany. The terms were later confirmed by the Treaty of Aranjuez in 1801.

1800 – 1830 Enslaved African trafficked to Brazil: 1801 – 10, 241,000; 1811 – 20, 327,000; 1821 – 30, 431,000. (Ref Slave Wales p. 112)

1802 Restoration of Slavery in the French colonies. In response, British abolitionist, James Stephen, published anonymously ‘Bonaparte in the West indies, or the history of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the African Hero’.

1802 Trinidad becomes one of the ‘new’ British Caribbean colonies, having been retained by Britain under the ‘Peace of Amiens’. Slave imports are at first limited as part of protection for the ‘old’ British Caribbean colonies, e.g. Jamaica.

1803 USA: In order to raise funds for its war with Britain and Haiti, France sells its North American territory newly acquired from Spain, to the USA with the ‘Louisiana Purchase’. In part, the French sale was driven by Haiti resistance. The effect of the sale was to double the size of the territory claimed by the USA (Louisiana approximately 2,000,000 square kilometre central area stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the modern Canadian border).

1804 – The successful slave rebellion on Saint-Domingue leads to the establishment of Haiti or Hayti (a return to its original indigenous name that means ‘land of high mountains’) – the first Black republic in the world.

1805 an abolition bill failed in Parliament for the eleventh time in 15 years

1805 William Wilberforce ‘denied in Parliament any intention to free the enslaved’ (Taylor, 2020, p. 20)

1806 ‘Foreign Slavery Act’, introduced as a government measure, passed May 1806. In the 1806 elections, abolitionists argued a ‘strategic’ case that slave trade abolition was also favourable to the British colonies. Britain, having lost tens of thousands of troops in battles in the ‘French’ Caribbean, faced a France that had won major victories in 1805-6. As part of Britain increasing its armed forces to the largest size they had known, 700,000, required the inclusion of this ‘strategic’ case for abolition.

1807 – 1838

1807 Britain: ‘An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade’ passed March 1807

1807 USA: ‘Act Prohibiting the importation of slaves’

1812 Treaty of Ghent: USA /Britain agreement to work towards abolishing the trade in slaves

1810 -25 Most of Spain’s ‘Latin American’ colonies gained independence. This happened In the aftermath of Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Spain in 1807-8, However, the abolition of slave trading, slavery and subsequent forms of ‘sweated labour’ in the newly formed states varied considerably.

1812 -15 USA/ Britain at war

1812 France invaded Russia, partly motivated by Russia exempting itself from Napoleon’s ‘Continental System’ aimed at halting trading with Britain and its colonies, but not slavery. This system banned countries (including Russia) from acting as a conduit for importing slave worked plantation goods from the Americas which might aid France’s enemies, e.g. Britain.

1813 India: Charter Act. Despite its concern about Hindu & Muslim anxieties about conversions, the British East India Company is forced by the Government to allow Christian missionaries into India, following lobbying by among others William Wilberforce’s Clapham Sect. The Charter Act (The East India Company Act 1813) also asserted the British Crowns sovereignty over India, and ended the British East India Company monopoly of trade with India, except for the China Trade, and the tea and opium trades. The end of British East India Company’s role as a commercial body came with Charter Act 1833. The 1833 Act also ended the Company’s monopoly of the China Trade which subsequently influenced events which led to the first opium War of 1839.

1814 Declaration of slave trading being illegal: Dutch

1814 Declaration of slave trading being illegal: Spain

1814 The inclusion of Demerara-Essequibo colonies into the British Empire (subsequently incorporated into British Guiana in 1832) leads to ‘arguably’ an increase in the number of enslaved people in the British Caribbean colonies post the 1807 abolition of the slave trade law.

1815 Post Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo; the Congress of Vienna: document signed by Austria, Britain, France, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Spain, and Sweden, includes clause against the slave trade.

1816 Britain: Spa Fields meetings included open discussion for an armed uprising.

1816 Barbados: revolt of enslaved workers, ‘Bussa’s rebellion’, brutally suppressed. Unrest in this One of Britain’s oldest Caribbean colonies, was partly prompted by an abolitionist proposal for a slave register that was opposed by British colonial assemblies.

1817 Penambuco Revolt, Brazil

1818 Britain: Robert Wedderburn, a tailor of African descent and the son of a enslaved person, published ‘The Axe Laid to the Root’ calling for slave emancipation and universal suffrage. Also prosecuted for publicly advocating the right of slaves to kill their masters. Subsequently imprisoned for blasphemy. (Blackburn, P.325)

1817 India: The defeat of the Maratha Confederacy and the Pindaris, left Britain in control of two thirds of India.

1820 Declaration of slave trading being illegal: Spain

1820 USA: Missouri Compromise allowed slavery expansion in the SW USA, i.e. not North of latitude 36 degrees 41 minutes.

1820 – 23 No slave trading ships were caught in Caribbean waters by the British, though several were caught by Haitian and Colombian warships.

1821 The “open” Cuba importation of enslaved Africans was supposedly brought to a ‘close’ by British diplomatic pressure (1790 -1821, 240,00 slaves landed in Havana). However, clandestine slave trading continued. By 1841 the number of enslaved people had risen to 436,000, up from 286,900 in 1827. (Ref Slave Wales p. 114/5) In addition, the sugar output per slave in Cuba more than doubled between 1827 -1861.

1822 Brazil: The Empire of Brazil declared independent

1823 USA Monroe doctrine: USA President Monroe asserted ‘American Continents …are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.’ (Chambers, 2017, p. 4) . The doctrine while also aimed at British shipping interference and French intervention, gave US sanction to continued Spanish rule and slavery in Cuba. “the growth of informal American empire in Cuba depended on ‘status quo’ Spanish rule. The Monroe Doctrine represented one of the most decisive enunciations of this foreign policy.” (Chambers, 2017, p. 169)

1823 British Colony: Demerara revolt of enslaved workers

1823 Britain: the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions (London Anti-Slavery Society) formed. Came to an end 1838.

1823 Brazil Independence from Portugal

1824 Anglo-Dutch treaty – consolidation of parts of what became Malaysia, Singapore under British control

1824 Peru gained its independence from Spain

1824 Britain: Repeal of the anti-trade union Combination Acts. However, these provisions were not extended to British colonies after the abolition of slavery.

1825 The French government finally agrees to recognize the state of Haiti, once part of its Empire. However, France used the threat of force to make Haiti agree to pay substantial reparations, which lasted until 1947.

1828 USA: Women’s rights activist and African- American abolitionists, Sojourner Truth, having fled slavery with her daughter, won a court case to recover her son.

1829 Abolition of slavery: Mexico. Texas region of Mexico, though temporarily excluded from abolition law, broke away from Mexico in 1836 to form a separate state where slavery was legal. Texas joined the USA in 1845.

1830 Declaration of slave trading being illegal: Brazil

1830 USA Removal Act accelerates forced movement of Indigenous nations in Eastern USA west (e.g. Trials of tears) to facilitate plantation expansion. This led to both increases in enslaved “Africans” in the plantations of USA, and ongoing escalations in large scale deaths among Indigenous nations from eastern territories and removal zones further west.

1830 Britain: Abolitionists adopt immediate emancipation policy.

1830 -1832 Britain: ‘Captain Swing’ countryside riots; new working class organisations held meetings and marches of thousands; marches and drilling for parliamentary reform by Political Unions; riots that destroyed machinery and property; repression and transportations to Australia.

1831 France: Following the removal of King Charles X in 1830 and his replacement with Louis Phillipe, a new law to end the clandestine slave trade was passed, and a new naval agreement was made between France and Britain to hinder the Atlantic slave trade.

1831 Jamaica: The Baptist War, also known as the Sam Sharpe Rebellion, the Christmas Rebellion, the Christmas Uprising and the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt, was a revolt of 20% of the 300,000 enslaved workers in Jamaica.

1831 USA, Virginia: Rebellion of enslave led by Nat Turner.

1832 Britain: Parliamentary Reform Act passed. As the electoral reforms were middle class in character, the coupling with anti-slavery by reformers presented a concern for the working oppressed, albeit outside the UK.

1833 ‘An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted Slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Services of such Slaves’

1834 – 1920 Indentured labourers from South Asia (India, China, Pacific Islands) transported to 19 colonies in various parts of the British Empire (e.g. The Caribbean, East and Southern Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Ceylon, Australia) and the Americas. Estimates: 2 – 3 million people. ‘Recruits’ often suffered recruitment, transportation and work conditions likened to ‘slavery by contract’.*

1835 The slave owners compensation scheme (i.e. Slavery Abolition Act (1835) Loan), a provision of the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act, uses a Government loan of £20,000,000 chargeable to UK taxpayers. This figure was approximately 40% of the Treasury’s yearly income, i.e. 5% of British GDP.

1835 – 1915 The Piano key production industry in the USA and Europe drew on East African elephant ivory for supplies and the enslavement of local villagers as porters for transportation of the tusks to the coast. This roughly 80 year period of regionally organised slave seizures and trading was centred on Zanzibar. It involved the destruction of villages as part of the enslavement process in East Africa that impacted on an estimated 2 million people. (Ref Complicity)

1836 Declaration of slave trading being illegal: Portugal

1837 – 1901 Britain and Wars. Apart from the Crimean War, for each year of the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain was engaged in a ‘small war’ in New Zealand, the African continent or part of eastern or southern regions of Asia.

1837-8 Agra Indian Famine

1838 Apprenticeship period (i.e. the continuation of slavery in the British Caribbean in all but name) introduced by 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act ends.

1839 – 1883

1839 British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society formed. Successor to the London Anti-Slavery Society, it merged with the  Aborigines’ Protection Society in 1909 to form the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society.

1839 – 42 Britain/ China: First Opium War over the refusal by China to allow the continuation of the importation of British Opium from India.

1839 With the discovery that Indian ‘contract’ workers were being flogged on the Gladstone Caribbean estates, importes were temporarily suspended. 1834-1865 estimated 96,580 Asian contract workers imported by West Indian contractors.

1840 – 1850 Brazil: Enslaved Africans trafficked to Brazil having peaked in the 1820s fell in the 1830s, but rose again in the 1840s to 378,000. 1840s reports of widespread illegal use of USA flags on slaving vessels to Brazil to evade inspection.

1843 Legal limitations imposed on slavery in India

1844 Sri Lanka: Abolition of slavery in ‘Ceylon’

1846 – 60 Britain: Free trade policies are developed that involve ending colonial trade preferences and repeal of the Navigation Acts

1846 – 48 Mexico / USA war. Defeat of Mexico where slavery had been abolished, results 525,000 square miles of territory being transferred to the USA. The Subsequent occupations, removals and colonial settlements result in widespread drops in Indigenous Populations in newly acquired areas, e.g. California.

1847 Peru: guano deposits were collected as fertilizer from the late 1840s using the labour of tens of thousands of Chinese ‘contract’ workers (often referred to as ‘coolies’).

1848 France declares a second republic, and a second abolition of slavery in its colonies follows. Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, becomes the republic’s president until 1852 when, following a coup, he became Emperor.

1848 Declaration in Paris of a republic early in year prompted unrest in Guadeloupe and Martinique leading to the actions of the enslaved determining the effective ending of slavery on these Islands. The events in these French colonies had, in turn, a knock on rebellious effect on the enslaved on Dutch and Danish controlled Caribbean territories.

1850 Brazil: Renewed British diplomatic and naval opposition curbs slave importation and Brazil declares an end to slave trading. (Slave Wales p.147 ) However, an internal slave trade continued post 1850.

1852 Start of importation of Senegalese ‘contract’ workers (engages) into the French Caribbean colonies. Only after some 16,000 people had been transported did it end about 1860 when the British complained that the trade was in breach of the Anglo-French agreement over the slave trade.

1852 Importation of Asian ‘contract’ workers also started at this time into the French Caribbean – by 1887 it is estimated some 77,000 Indians (many fleeing famine and poverty), 1,300 Chinese and 500 Vietnamese had been transported.

1852 – 1870 Colonial labour laws under the Second French Empire were draconian, involving penal labour and labour services to planters. While planters received compensation for enslaved workers who were set free at similar rates to the British ones, because the number of enslaved was very much lower, the British compensation Bill was nearly six times greater than the French.

1856 Nicaragua: ‘President’ William Walker, with a view to winning support amongst Southern states of the USA, repealed laws against of slaveholding, having led an invasion force from the USA. During his very brief reign as head of ‘Nicaragua’, his regime received recognition from the US President Franklin Pierce.

1856-60 Britain/ China: Second Opium War

1857 India: The so called ‘Indian Mutiny’ (also known as the First War of Independence). Following defeat of the uprising British Governance changes from East India Company to Crown rule in 1858 (estimates of the number of Indian soldiers killed in retribution vary from 100,000. Some estimates give a very much larger number of resulting deaths across India over a 10 year period from 1857.)

1859 Spain reoccupied Santo Domingo converting it once again into a slave colony.

1860-61 Upper Doab Indian Famine

1865-7 Orissa Indian famine

1860/61 Indian penal code includes ‘unlawful compulsory labour’.

1865 Jamaica, Morant Bay rebellion. After the brutal suppression of the rebellion, Jamaica became a ‘Crown Colony’, and this designation was soon followed for most of the ‘old’ British Caribbean colonies.

1865 USA abolition of slavery

1867 USA, Peonage Abolition Act passed

1868-9 Rajputana Indian Famine

1869 Australia: Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines is established. The Governor can order the removal of any child to a reformatory or industrial school. Similar legislation is passed in other Australian colonies.

1871 Britain: the Trade Union Act, and subsequently the Act of 1874, which legalised some trade union activity in Britain, where, once again, not extended to Britain’s colonies.

1871 Canada: census estimate of the ‘Aboriginal population’ 102,000. Estimates for the end of 14th century 500,000 – 2 million

1871-1921 The British Crown ‘entered into’ 11 ‘numbered treaties’ with several First Nations in Canada, which resulted in large losses of land of these Nations in Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and parts of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia. The treaties were for the spread of European settlements, the railway system and resource extraction.

1873-4 Bihar Indian famine – exceptional extensive relief ensured death rate was greatly reduced

1876-8 Madras and Bombay also Mysore and Hyderabad Indian Famines

1882 -1914 Egypt was occupied but not formally ruled by Britain. From 1914- 22 Egypt was ruled as a British Protectorate

1884 – 1914

1884 Invention of the Maxim machine gun. It was used by European colonial powers, e.g. Britain in South and West Africa in the late 19th century. It is estimated that its use by the British in the 1893 Matabele War resulted in 1,600 deaths. In 1900 Queen Victoria knighted Maxim, the gun’s inventor.

1884-5 ‘Scramble for Africa’ Berlin (West Africa) conference

1884 – 1914 British African Colonies: Colonial forces fought a series of “small wars” in South, West and East Africa. In the wake of the 1889/90 Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference especially, anti-slavery was among the ‘justifications’ for the incursions and the resulting large-scale deaths.

1885 Belgian Congo: 1885- 1908 The Congo free State was Govern by the Personal Rule of the King of Belgium, King Leopold II. It is estimated that possibly as many as 10 million people died (an estimated fifth of the population) through disease and the brutal exploitative regime of forced labour on the ivory trade and later rubber plantations during this period.

1885 South African Republic discriminatory legislation against Indian indentured workers who were also British subjects, led to British protests and was used to help rationalise the second Boer War, which started 1899.

1886 ‘Nigeria’: The Royal Niger Company (RNC) formed (previous titles: United Africa Company 1879 ; National African Company 1881). The RNC, as a British Government chartered body, had both governing and commercial rights, similar to those of the East India Company pre 1858.

1886 Cuba: abolition of Slavery

1888 Brazil: abolition of Slavery

1892 Britain: Dadabhai Naoroji, first non-white MP, elected. Naoroji developed ‘Drain Theory’ explaining the connection between poverty in India and the wealth made through British rule and economic domination. He was also a founder member of the Indian National Congress that campaigned for Indian independence.

1896-7, 1898-1900, 1901- 02 India: Famines in many areas, often resulting in very high death rates.

1895 – 1911 ‘Nigeria’: labour recruitment for some public works , e.g. railway construction, drew on the practice of the British colonial authorities requiring village heads to supply workers through forced labour, referred to as “Political Labour”.

1897 ‘Nigeria’: West African city of Benin attacked and extensively destroyed by British colonial and RNC militia forces using canon and machine guns. This resulted in: the deaths of a large number of both Benin troops and local non-combatants but hardly any British troops; the destruction of sacred sites; large scale looting of historical objects.

1899 ‘Nigeria’: the revoking of RNC’s charter led to the transfer of ‘its’ territories to the British Government. RNC’s compensation amounted to £865,000 plus mineral rights. In the prior decade the RNC’s militia, often working in tandem with the militias of the various neighbouring British Protectorates and colonies, organised violent incursions into the lower Niger region.

1901 Six British colonies form the federation of Australia in which Indigenous people were not citizens. However, their employment conditions, together with limitations on education, family and residence continued to be controlled by the state. The unification of New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland did not end institutional discrimination against non-white non-European residents who were subject to discriminatory laws and practices, e.g. Whites only policy of the Immigration Restriction Act.

1904 Namibia (South West Africa): The Battle of Waterberg between the much better armed German troops and the forces of the indigenous Herero people took place against a background of land confiscations and forced labour. The German battle victory was followed by those Herero still alive being driven into the Omaheke desert while others were put into concentration / work camps, e.g. Shark Island – many subsequently died of abuse, exhaustion from over work or disease (estimates of number of deaths 24,000 -100,000). Camp survivors were forbidden to own cattle and were distributed amongst the colonists as labourers and obliged to display a registration disc. The Namaqua nation’s people also rebelled in 1904 and suffered a similar fate (estimates of number of deaths 10,000).

1905 Guyana: Ruimveldt Riots. A dockworkers strike in the Capital, Georgetown, led to a strike of porters at the Ruimveldt estate just outside the town. Following a ‘riot’ being declared, the police open fired on the estate workers, and British reinforcements were brought in. Though within 5 days the strikes were suppressed, the dockers’ strike had started movement which led to the formation of a Trade Union movement.

1908 The United Aborigines Mission establishes the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children’s Home in Nowra, NSW, after several orphaned children come into the care of the mission. The home is often referred to as the ‘birthplace’ of the Stolen Generations in New South Wales.  It closed in 1988.

1909 Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society formed

1910 Sanderson Committee of Enquiry into Indian Immigration into Crown colonies (i.e. mostly indentured workers) from regions of India

1912 Parliamentary motion to end the recruitment of Indian indentured workers defeated.

1914 Outbreak of ‘World War 1’

1914 Nigeria: ‘The Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria’ formed. A final step in amalgamations of British companies, colonies and protectorates.

1915 – 2019

1917 90 % of Africa under formal European Colonial Control- increased from 10% in 1870

1917 British India’s Imperial Legislative Council banned Indian indenture system, though the system survives for five more years in some areas.

1919 Events in the British Isles (Irish Independence struggles; racist riots in port areas, e.g. Cardiff, Liverpool) influences dissent in British colonies, e.g. India sub-continent and Caribbean.

1926 League of Nations Slavery Convention

1927 Australia, Canberra: first recorded Parliamentary Aboriginal protest over sovereignty when two Wiradjuri elders – John Noble, aka Marvellous and Jimmy Clements, aka King Billy — ultimately secured an introduction to the Duke of York, (who later become King George VI) at the opening of the new State Parliament in Canberra.

1933 100 year anniversary commemorations of the 1833 Act for the Abolition of Slavery held in the home city of William Wilberforce, Hull. The Times report of the event was headlined “Centenary of Wilberforce.”
1936 The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its statement on ‘Recruiting of Indigenous Workers Convention’ defined the term recruiting to include all operations undertaken with the object of obtaining or supplying the labour of persons who do not spontaneously offer their services

C050 – Recruiting of Indigenous Workers Convention, (No. 50)
Article 2
For the purposes of this Convention–
(a) the term recruiting includes all operations undertaken with the object of obtaining or supplying the labour of persons who do not spontaneously offer their services at the place of employment or at a public emigration or employment office or at an office conducted by an employers’ organisation and supervised by the competent authority;


1943 Bengal Indian Famine

1967 Australia. Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the constitution to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them. Source: Australian 1967 referendum – Creative Spirits, retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-1967-referendum

1970 research (Martinez, 2005) suggests workers employed under conditions similar to indenture for pearl diving in Australia

2006 The film in praise of the work of William Wilberforce , ‘Amazing Grace’, released in time for the 200 year anniversary in 2007 of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.

2007 Britain 200 year commemoration of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill. At a commemorative service in Westminster Abbey, Toyin Agbetu, made an intervention. He explained: “I was moved to make a collective voice heard at the commemorative ritual of appeasement and self-approval marking the bicentenary of the British parliamentary act to abolish what they disingenuously refer to as a ‘slave trade’. The ‘Wilberfest’ abolition commemoration has eradicated any mention of resistance, rebellion and revolution instigated by millions of African people.”

2007 Britain 200 year commemoration of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill: Prime Minister Blair undermined his expressions of repentance. Tony Blair “blurred together the abolition of the British slave trade and the abolition of colonial slavery… and pretended that the slave trade alone had enriched Britain.” He even suggested that Britain “had sacrificed wealth in the name of morality.” (Scanlan, 2020, p. 372)

2015 British taxpayers finished ‘paying off’ the debt (one of the largest in history) which the British government incurred through the Slavery Abolition Act (1835) Loan taken out to facilitate the slave owners compensation scheme. On 9th February 2018 a Treasury Tweet (subsequently deleted) revealed the 2015 completion of the repayments under Slavery Abolition Act (1835) Loan https://www.taxjustice.net/2020/06/09/slavery-compensation-uk-questions/

2016 Britain: Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, lecture ‘Britain’s Black Debt’ – criticised Blair Government’s claim in 2001 that because transatlantic slavery had been legal under British law, there was nothing to apologise for.

2018 Recent research by the economist Utsa Patnaik calculated how over around 200 years, 1762- 1938, the East India Company and the British Raj siphoned out at least £9.2 trillion

Reading list

Bhandar, Brenna (2018), Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership, London, Duke University Press

Blackburn, Robin (2013), The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights, London, Verso

Blackburn, Robin (1998), The Making of New World Slavery, 1492 – 1800, London, Verso

Blackburn, Robin (1988), The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776 – 1848, London, Verso

Chambers, Stephen (2017), No God but Gain: The Untold story of Cuban Slavery, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Making of the United States, London, Verso

Cobain, Ian (2016), The History Thieves: Secrets, lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation, London, Portobello Books

Dadzie, Stella (2020), A Kick in the Belly: Women, Slavery and Resistance, London, Verso

Davis, Mike (2002), Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino famines and the making of the Third World, London, Verso
DRESCHER, SEYMOUR (2009), Abolition : A History of Slavery and Antislavery, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
Evans, Chris (2020 reprint), Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery 1660-1850, Cardiff, University of Wales Press

Fairlie, Simon (2009), A Short history of Enclosure in Britain, The Land, Summer 2009

Farrow, A., Lang, J., and Frank, J., (2006) Complicity: ‘How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery ‘ , New York, Ballantine Books

Hall, Rebecca (2021), Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts, Illustrator Hugo MARTINEZ, ISBN 9780241523551, Particular Books (London, Penguin, Pub: 1/06/2021)

Keay, John, (1991), The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company (London: Harper Collins 1991), 383; Robins, Corporation 2006 (n. 8), 76–78.
Kowaleski Wallace, Elizabeth (2006) The British Slave Trade and Public Memory, New York, Columbia University Press https://doi.org/10.7312/kowa13714; https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/kowa13714

Koskenniemi, Martti (2016), Colonial Laws: Sources, Strategies and Lessons? Journal of the history of International Law, No. 18, p. 248-277, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
Leiden, (The Netherlands)

Land Magazine https://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain

Patnaik, Utsa & Patnaik, Prabhat (2021), The Drain of Wealth : Colonialism before the First World War, Monthly Review 01/02/21 (https://www.livemint.com/Companies/HNZA71LNVNNVXQ1eaIKu6M/British-Raj-siphoned-out-45-trillion-from-India-Utsa-Patna.html )

Polanyi, Karl (1944), The Great transformation, Boston
Robins, Nick (2006), The Corporation That Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational (London: Pluto Press 2006), 61.
Scanlan, Padraic X. (2020), Slave Empire: How Slavery Built Modern Britain, London, Robinson

Sell, Zach (2021), Trouble of the World: Slavery and Empire in the age of Capital, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press

Sherwood, Marika (2007), After Abolition: Britain and the Slave Trade since 1807, London, I.B. Tauris

Steeds, Mark & Ball, Roger 2020, “From Wulfstan to Colston: Severing the sinews of slavery in Bristol”, Bristol, Bristol Radical History Group

Thomas, Hugh (1997), The Slave Trade: the history of the Atlantic slave trade 1440-1870, London, Macmillan Pub.

Taylor, Michael (2020), The Interest: how the British establishment resisted the abolition of slavery, London, Bodley Head

Wemyss, G. (2006), Terra Nullius, White Histories and ‘Muslim’ Minorities: Shifting post
-colonial discourses about the Isle of Dogs and east London, 1990 to 7/7. Dr Georgie Wemyss ESRC post-doctoral research fellow Centre for Research into Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism University of Surrey, UK. Paper presented at ISA Conference, Durban South Africa. 25th July 2006

Wicks, Dan (2020), The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, London, Pluto Press
Williams, Eric (1944), Capitalism and Slavery, USA. (Also London: Andre Deutsch, 1964)