The Anti-Slave-Trade Atlantic World, c. 1807-1870

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jake Subryan Richards MT; TBC LT and ST


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Britain’s parliamentary act to abolish the transatlantic trade in enslaved African people  in 1807 is a standard reference point in histories of slavery and abolition. But much less is known about the consequences of enforcing that act in West Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Enforcement required huge investment in colonial and naval forces to try to stop slaving ships from crossing the Atlantic; it caused a build-up of captives on the African coast because some traders could no longer sell them overseas; it prompted other traders to develop a huge illegal slave trade to Brazil and Cuba; and it generated new forms of bonded labour (such as indenture) in the Americas to replace the diminishing supply of enslaved people. These changes altered Britain’s political and commercial relationships with polities in Africa and the Americas. This module investigates anti-slave-trade practices between British agents and the rulers, traders, enslaved, and free(d) peoples of different Atlantic societies. How did Britain’s colonial empire adapt to accommodate the influx of African captives from captured slave ships? How did political authorities in Africa and Latin America respond to British demands for abolition? And what did enslaved people make of the transformations wrought by abolition? We will explore these questions using sources such as slave narratives, legal cases, political pamphlets, travel literature, and diplomatic correspondence. Through this course, students will examine how abolishing the transatlantic slave trade produced new modes of encounter, empire, and labour in the Atlantic world.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Michaelmas and the Lent Terms.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

  • Lauren A. Benton and Lisa Ford, Rage for order: the British Empire and the origins of international law, 1800-1850, Cambridge, Mass., 2016.
  • Nemata Amelia Blyden, West Indians in West Africa, 1808-1880:the African diaspora in reverse, Rochester, NY, 2000
  • Christopher Leslie Brown,,Moral capital: foundations of British abolitionism, Chapel Hill, NC, 2006.
  • David Eltis,Economic growth and the ending of the transatlantic slave trade, New York, 1987
  • Ada Ferrer,Freedom’s mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the age of revolution, New York, NY, 2014.
  • Richard Huzzey,Freedom burning: anti-slavery and empire in Victorian Britain, Ithaca, N.Y., 2012
  • Mary C. Karasch, Slave life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1850 (Princeton, N.J., 1987).
  • Kristin Mann, Slavery and the birth of an African city: Lagos, 1760-1900, Bloomington, IN, 2007
  • Jenny S Martinez, The slave trade and the origins of international human rights law, Oxford, 2012
  • R. Marquese, T. Parron, and M. Berbel, Slavery and Politics: Brazil and Cuba, 1790-1850. Albuquerque, NM, 2016.
  • Padraic Scanlan, Freedom’s debtors: British antislavery in Sierra Leone in the age of revolution, New Haven, Conn., 2017


Essay (40%, 4000 words) in the LT.
Essay (60%, 6000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills