John Lok, a London merchant, brings a small group of enslaved Ghanaians to England.


Sir John Hawkins’s first English Atlantic slave voyage, selling slaves in Haiti to the Spanish


British settle Caribbean islands: Barbados in 1625; Jamaica in 1655


The case of Smith v. Brown and Cooper rules that “as soon as a negro comes into England, he becomes free,” but this ruling has little practical impact, and slavery continues in England nonetheless.

ca. 1705-1728
J. Obrisset, Snuffbox
J. Obrisset, Snuffbox

Treaty of Utrecht. As part of the settlement, Britain is granted an absolute monopoly over the supply of slaves to Spanish colonies for a period of thirty years. This agreement marks a major turning point in the expansion of the British slave trade. 


Attorney General Sir Philip Yorke and Solicitor-General Charles Talbot rule that a slave does not become free upon arrival in Britain, baptism does not confer freedom, and a master may legally compel him or her to return to the plantations.


Bristol supersedes London as Britain's most active slave-trading port. By 1747, Bristol is superseded, in turn, by Liverpool. 

May 1746 (published)
W. Hogarth, *Taste in High Life*
W. Hogarth, Taste in High Life

Seven Years' War


Tacky’s Revolt, Jamaica. This major slave uprising—one of the two largest in Jamaican history—is harshly repressed by British authorities. Four hundred rebels are killed in fighting and another one hundred are executed.

September 10, 1772 (published)
M. Darly, *A Mungo Macaroni*
M. Darly, A Mungo Macaroni

In the lead-up to the American Revolution, Dunmore’s Proclamation offers freedom to any slave of any “rebel” (i.e., Patriot or pro-American) master who joins British forces. 


American Revolutionary War


The captain of the slave ship Zong throws 132 African slaves overboard. The ship’s owner claims insurance for lost “cargo.” The ensuing legal case galvanizes broad public support for abolition in Britain.


Thomas Clarkson publishes Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African


Ottoba Cugoano’s Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evils of Slavery becomes the most radical challenge to slavery by an African-British author.


Founding of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in London 


Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative is the first full account of the slave trade and slavery published by a formerly enslaved African. (Nine editions between 1789 and 1794.)


Haitian Revolution. Slave revolt in St. Domingue, Haiti, culminates in the abolition of slavery there and founding of the Republic of Haiti. 


The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. British Parliament passes a bill to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. 


The Emancipation Act. British Parliament passes a bill ending slavery throughout Britain. The act stipulates an “apprenticeship period” for the enslaved prior to full freedom. British slave holders are promised £20 million in compensation.