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Time Line

Click on the dates in red to see pamphlets from that year, or go directly to the selected pamphlet titles.

1562 John Hawkins makes his first voyage to Sierra Leone and becomes in the first Englishman known to have traded in Africans, transporting 1,200 people against their will into slavery in Hispaniola and St Domingue (Dominican Republic and Haiti).
1625 Barbados becomes an English colony.
1655 England seizes Jamaica from Spain.
1672 The Royal African Company is formed by Charles II and London Merchants, transporting around 100,000 Africans into slavery in the Caribbean between 1672 and 1689. The gold they provided to the English mint was named the guinea, after the West African country from which the gold was taken.
1698 The Royal African Company’s monopoly ends, opening the trade to private traders – Liverpool, Bristol and London benefit enormously, as do other ports around the coast
1713 England gains the island of St Kitts, and the Asiento – the right to import enslaved Africans to Spanish America.
1729 Ignatius Sancho, African writer and businessman is born on board a slave ship.
1730 First Maroon War in Jamaica, lasting almost nine years and resulting in the British authorities signing a treaty with the Maroons (see glossary for definition).
Account of a shooting excursion on the mountains near Dromilly Estate in the parish of Trelawny, and island of Jamaica in the month of October 1824!!! (London 1825 – gives insight into the Maroons existence and their battles with the authorities)
1735-6 Tacky’s Rebellion in Antigua.
1745 Olaudah Equiano, author, abolitionist, sailor, and former slave is born in Nigeria.
1756-63 Britain fights the Seven Years War against France, gaining Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and Tobago. Equiano served in this war.
1759 William Wilberforce, MP and anti slavery campaigner is born in Hull.
A letter on the abolition of the slave trade, addressed to the freeholders and other inhabitants of Yorkshire, by W. Wilberforce Esq. London 1807 – one of the many letters Wilberforce wrote on the slave trade – this one is useful for the appendix
1760 Tackey’s Rebellion in Jamaica; Thomas Clarkson, anti slavery campaigner and abolitionist is born in Wisbech, Cambridge.
1765 Granville Sharp begins to challenge the legality of slavery on English soil with the case of Jonathan Strong.
Granville Sharp. The Law of Passive Obedience, or Christian Submission to Personal Injuries: Wherein is shown, that the several texts of scripture, which command the entire submission of servants or slaves to their masters, cannot authorize the latter to exact an involuntary servitude nor, in the least degree, justify the claims of modern Slaveholders.
1772 Lord Mansfield rules in the Somerset case that an enslaved person cannot be taken from this country against their will – this was mistakenly interpreted as meaning all Africans living in Britain were free.
Considerations on the Negroe Cause commonly so called, addressed to the Right Honourable Lord Mansfield, lord chief justice of the court of the king’s bench, by Samuel Estwick, A.M. assistant agent for the Island of Barbados. 2nd edition (London 1773)
Thoughts Upon Slavery, by John Wesley (1774)
1783 The Zong case comes to light in England – in 1781, 133 enslaved Africans were thrown overboard by the ship’s crew in order to claim the insurance money from the ships owners. The case makes people aware of the cruelty and brutality of the slave trade. British Quakers form a committee against the slave trade and present the first petition to parliament
1786 Thomas Clarkson’s Essay on the slavery and commerce of Human Species makes an immediate impact. Olaudah Equiano resigns from his job as Commissary for the scheme to repatriate the Black Poor to Sierra Leone, saying that the scheme is corrupt.
T. Clarkson. An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African; Translated from a Latin Dissertation, which Was Honoured with the First Prize in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785. The Second Edition, Revised and Considerably Enlarged. (London 1788).
1787 Ottobah Cuguano publishes Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Commerce of the Human Species, the first directly abolitionist publication in English by an African. The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is founded by the petitioning Quakers, Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson.
At a committee of the society instituted for the purpose of effecting the abolition of the slave trade, by Granville Sharp, January 1788
1788 Dolben Act passed to ‘improve’ conditions on slave ships.
An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa, by Alexander Falconbridge, (1788)
An essay on the impolicy of the African slave trade, in two parts, by the Rev. Thomas Clarkson (1788)
A sermon on the slave trade preached at Maze Pond, Southwark, Lord’s day afternoon, November 30th 1788
1789Olaudah Equiano publishes his book, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African. The book is extremely well received and goes through nine editions during his lifetime. The French Revolution begins.
Commercial reasons for the non abolition of the slave trade in the West India islands by a planter, and a merchant of many years residence in the West Indies (1789)
1790 Wilberforce presents the first abolition bill in Parliament, which is rejected.
Abridgement of the minutes of the evidence, taken before a committee of the whole house, to whom it was referred to consider of the Slave Trade, 1790 (Part 2)
1791 A slave led rebellion begins in St Domingue, which develops into the Haitian Revolution
A particular account of the commencement and progress of the insurrection of the Negroes in St Domingo, which began August 1791, being a translation of the speech made to the national assembly 3rd November 1791 by the deputies from the General Assembly of the French part of St Domingo, 2nd edition, with notes and an appendix containing extracts from other authentic papers (London 1792)
1792 The House of Commons votes in favour of abolition of the slave trade, but the bill is rejected by the House of Lords.
1793-1802War between England and France.
Abstract of an act for better regulating the manner of carrying slaves in British vessels from the coast of Africa, passed July 12th, 1799 (1799)
1794 France abolishes slavery in her colonies
1795-6 Second Maroon War; Fedon’s Rebellion in Grenada
1802 First West India Dock opened dealing in goods connected with the slave trade.
A memoir of transactions that took place in St. Domingo in the spring of 1799; affording an idea of the present state of that country the real character of its black governor Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the safety of out West India Islands from attack or revolt, including the rescue of a British officer under sentence of death, by Captain Rainsford (1802)
1804 St Domingue declared the Republic of Haiti, the first independent black state outside Africa
1807 Britain’s slave trade abolished
1808 British West African Squadron established in Sierra Leone to suppress slave trading by British citizens.
The trails of the slave traders: Samuel Samo, Joseph Peters and William Tufft, tried in April and June 1812 before the Hon Robert Thorpe LLD Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, with two letters on the slave trade (1813)
1816 Bussa Rebellion in Barbados
1817 Slave Registration Act
Speech by James Stephen Esq. at the annual meeting of the African Institution at Freemasons Hall on the Slave Registry Bill (1817)
A review of the slave registration Acts, in a report of the Committee of the board of directors of the African Institution made on the 22nd February 1820
1823 Slave Uprising in Demerara (Guyana); Anti Slavery Committee formed.
Immediate not gradual abolition; or an inquiry into the shortest safest, and most effectual means of getting rid of West Indian slavery, by Elizabeth Heyrick (London 1824)
Case of the Vigilante, a ship employed in the slave trade, with some reflections on that traffic (1823)
1831 Baptist Rebellion in Jamaica; History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave published in London
Report of the agency committee of the Anti Slavery Society, established in June 1831 for the purpose of disseminating information by lectures on colonial slavery (1832)
Death Struggles of Slavery: Being a Narrative of Facts and Incidents, which occurred in a British Colony, During the Two Years Immediately Preceding Negro Emancipation, by Henry Bleby (London, 1853)
1833 Abolition of Slavery Act passed with a period of apprenticeship
1838 Emancipation of enslaved people in British territories