SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London


 from the 18th to the 21st Century
Presented by Anti-Slavery International

12 April - 23 June 2007
Anti-Slavery International was founded in 1839 by the same abolitionists who led the campaign in 1807 and fought for the abolition of slavery in 1834. We continue to work for an end to slavery throughout the world and are the leading organisation in this field.

Two accompanying events:

  • Film Screening: Africa's Greatest Resource, followed by Q&A with the film-maker Steve Taylor
    6pm, Thursday 7th June, Khalili Lecture Theatre
    The documentary centres around Thomas Peters, who was sold into slavery at the age of 22, worked on a plantation in America, and then fought with the British in the American War of Independence. It traces his flight to Nova Scotia, and his subsequent repatriation to Freetown in Sierra Leone. 57 minutes. In association with SOAS.
  • Lecture: Narrating the Atlantic World, a reflection on the work of New Beacon in the bicentenary year by Brian Alleyne
    5:30pm, Tuesday 5th June, Room G52, SOAS Main Building
    This bicentennial year has seen many reflections on the complex historical processes that followed transatlantic slavery and its ending. The talk discusses the political and cultural influence of London-based New Beacon Book's publishing and book-selling, the activist work of founder John La Rose (1927-2006) and his close associates, the traditions of the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (1982-95), of which he was director; and the contribution of all these to the shaping of a radical consciousness of the modern Atlantic world. In association with The George Padmore Institute
    Brian Alleyne is a volunteer with the George Padmore Institute and is an active member of its archive management committee. He is author of Radicals Against Race: black activism and cultural politics (Berg, 2002) and is a lecturer at Goldsmith's College.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Britain showed their opposition to the slave trade by attending public meetings, buying anti-slavery publications, signing petitions and boycotting sugar that had been produced by slaves. Nearly a third of the population of Manchester signed petitions supporting the abolition of the slave trade and around 300,000 people boycotted sugar in the 1790s.

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed on 25 March 1807. It took the abolition movement roughly 20 years to reverse public opinion regarding the slave trade and achieve this breakthrough. However, ending slavery itself would not be accomplished for a further 30 years and was only abolished throughout the British colonies on 1 August 1834. A conference in 1840 (pictured above) brought together abolitionists from around the world to consider how to campaign for international abolition of slavery.

International standards agreed by the United Nations and the International Labour Organization (ILO) define what constitutes slavery today. These include debt bondage, serfdom, forced labour, trafficking in people and the unconditional worst forms of child labour. Despite these international standards that prohibit modern forms of slavery, the ILO estimated in 2005 that there were at least 12.3 million people subjected to forced labour around the world.

If you liked this exhibition you might find this publication interesting:
Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007: Official magazine (pdf)
The official site for all bicentenary of abolition events is