Abolition of Slavery

Michael Guasco

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
Abolition of Slavery

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  • History of the Americas
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The abolition of slavery in the Atlantic world occurred during the 19th century, but its origins are generally recognized to be the intellectual ferment of the 18th-century Enlightenment, the political turmoil of the Age of Revolution, and the economic transformations associated with the development of modern industrial capitalism. Although antislavery ideas circulated much more widely beginning in the 1760s, the first sustained effort to do something about slavery began in the 1780s, particularly with the British campaign to end the slave trade. The revolution in Saint Domingue added a new sense of urgency to the issue in France, Great Britain, and the United States (as did each of the increasingly troubling slave rebellions that erupted elsewhere in the region during this era), but it was not until the first decade of the 19th century that the British and US governments abolished the trade and made efforts to suppress it throughout the Atlantic world. Slowly thereafter, slavery would be outlawed in many of the newly independent Latin American nations, throughout the British Empire in 1833, and in the French colonies in 1848. Not until the 1860s would slavery come to a halt in the United States and then in Cuba and Brazil soon thereafter. Scholars have demonstrated that there were many reasons for the abolition of slavery, including the heroic efforts of radical abolitionists and enslaved peoples alike. As important as moral outrage and popular pressure were to the effort, however, abolition was also facilitated by changing economic and political circumstances. The language of liberty that pervaded the revolutionary Atlantic world inevitably destabilized the ideological foundation of the Atlantic slave system. At the same time, new agricultural and technological innovations made it possible for European elites to imagine viable, and profitable, alternatives to the plantation complex that had been constructed during the preceding centuries. Much has been written about the end of slavery, but scholars are nonetheless still trying to figure out how the component parts of transatlantic abolitionism fit together into a seamless whole.

Article.  7248 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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