1502 First enslaved Africans in the Americas.
1564-1569 Sir John Hawkins, the first English slave trader, makes four voyages to Sierra Leone River, taking a total of 1200 Africans across the Atlantic to sell to the Spanish settlers in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
1607 Colony of Virginia is founded – the first permanent English settlement in North America. Virginia soon becomes one of the main areas for the arrival of enslaved Africans. Kingston and Port Royal, Jamaica. Repro ID PU0932
1625 Barbados becomes an English Caribbean colony.
1655 England seizes Jamaica from Spain.
1672 The Royal African Company is formed to regulate the English slave trade.
1698 Royal African Company monopoly is ended. The slave trade is opened officially to private traders.
1702-1713 War of the Spanish Succession. In 1713 Britain gains all of St. Kitts, and the right (asiento) to import enslaved people to Spanish America is granted to the South Sea Company. Map of Virginia. Repro ID PX7335
1705 The Virginia General Assembly declares: ‘All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves…shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his master…correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction…the master shall be free of all punishment’.
1719 Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is published. Olaudah Equiano. Repro ID F2255
1720 The South Sea Bubble: South Sea Company share prices become enormously inflated before collapsing in September, resulting in a stock market crash.
1729 Ignatius Sancho is born (probably on board a slave ship).
1730-1739 First Maroon War in Jamaica. British agree a treaty with the Maroon leader Cudjoe in 1739.
1735-36 Tackey’s slave rebellion in Antigua.
1745 Olaudah Equiano (author of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African) is born.
1756-63 Seven Years War. Britain gains Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and Tobago.
Thomas Clarkson. Repro ID F0869 1759 William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, is born in Hull.
1760 Slave rebellion in Jamaica led by Tacky.
1760 Thomas Clarkson, the abolitionist, is born.
1770s The abolitionist campaigner Granville Sharpe collects evidence showing that slavery is incompatible with English Law.
1772 The Somerset case in London. Chief Justice Lord Mansfield rules that enslaved people in England cannot be forced to return to the West Indies.
1772-73 John Stedman joins a military expedition to suppress a slave rebellion in Surinam, South America and is appalled by the inhumanity shown to Africans. In 1796 he publishes a full account of his experiences that becomes a classic of abolitionist literature. Print from Stedman’s book. Repro ID D7489_5
1775-83 American War of Independence. France seizes Grenada, Tobago and St Kitts from Britain but retains only Tobago after the Peace of Versailles.
1778 The Knight vs Wedderburn legal case in Edinburgh rules that enslavement is incompatible with Scots law.
1783 The Zong case: 131 Africans were thrown overboard from the slave ship Zong, but the case is heard as an insurance dispute not a murder trial. The case causes outrage and strengthens the abolition campaign.
1786 Thomas Clarkson’s ‘An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species’ is published and makes an immediate impact.
1787 The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is founded.
The Brookes ship. Repro ID F0872 1788 In response to growing concern about conditions in the ‘Middle Passage’ the Dolben Act limits the number of enslaved people a ship is permitted to carry. Even with these restrictions, conditions remain dreadful.
1789 Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African is published.
1789 The French Revolution begins in July. Its ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity spark discontent in the slave colonies.
1790 William Wilberforce presents the first abolition bill to the House of Commons, but it does not pass. Toussaint L’Ouverture. Repro ID E9974
1791-1804 A slave uprising in St Domingue in 1791 starts off the Haitian Revolution, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture with an army of ex-slaves. The revolution eventually leads to St Domingue becoming independent Haiti in 1804.
1792 House of Commons votes in favour of the abolition of the slave trade but the bill is rejected by the House of Lords.
1793-1802 French Revolutionary War between Britain and France effectively delays the abolition campaign.
1794 France abolishes slavery and frees all enslaved people in her colonies. Legislation is passed by US Congress to prevent US vessels being used in the slave trade.
1795-96 Second Maroon War in Jamaica, ending in defeat for the Maroons. Trelawney Town, chief residence of the Maroons. Repro ID E9983
1795 Fédon’s Rebellion in Grenada causes enormous damage to plantations. Enslaved people seize control of large parts of the island before being defeated by British troops in 1796.
1795 Rebellion in St Vincent results in expulsion of Black Caribs from the island in 1796
1796 Napoleon seizes power in France and soon restores slavery in the French colonies.
1802 First West India dock opens.
1802-03 Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, is taken prisoner by French in 1802 and dies in captivity in 1803. Plate commemorating the abolition of the slave trade. Repro ID PY7367
1803-15 Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France. Vienna Settlement confirms British control of St. Lucia, Tobago and the Guiana colonies.
1804 On January 1, St Domingue is declared the republic of Haiti, the first independent black state outside Africa.
1807 The Transatlantic Slave Trade is abolished by the British Parliament. US also bans the slave trade, to take effect the following year.Britain declares Sierra Leone (in West Africa) a crown colony.
1808 The British West Africa Squadron is established at Sierra Leone to suppress any illegal slave trading by British citizens. Between 1810-65, nearly 150,000 people are freed by anti-slavery squadrons. HM Brig Acorn, 16 guns, in chase of the piratical slaver Gabriel. Repro ID PX9195
1810 Britain negotiates with Portugal for the abolition of the South Atlantic slave trade.
1815 End of the Napoleonic Wars. At the Congress of Vienna Britain puts pressure on France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain to abolish slave trade.
1816 Bussa’s slave rebellion in Barbados, inspired by the Haitian revolution, causes huge damage in the harvest season before being brutally crushed.
1817 Spain signs a treaty with England agreeing to end the Spanish slave trade north of the equator immediately, and south of the equator in 1820.
1817 Slave Registration Act forces all slave owners to provide a list of all the enslaved people they own every two years. Billy Waters. Repro ID E9149
1820 US law makes slave trading a crime equal to piracy, punishable by death.
1823 Black actor Billy Waters dies penniless in the St Giles workhouse. 1823 Slave rising in Demerara is brutally suppressed by British forces: 250 enslaved people die, and Rev John Smith of the London Missionary Society is sentenced to death for his part, causing outrage in Britain.
1823 Anti-Slavery Committee formed in London to campaign for total abolition of slavery.
1831 Major slave revolt called ‘The Baptists’ War’ breaks out in Jamaica, led by Baptist preacher Sam Sharpe, and is brutally suppressed.
1831 Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in the US.
1831 The History of Mary Prince is published in London and becomes an important part of the anti-slavery literature.
1832 The Great Reform Act introduces new Members of Parliament from groups who are more likely to oppose slavery. William Wilberforce. Repro ID E9117
1833 Abolition of Slavery Act – Britain abolishes slavery and provides for the emancipation of enslaved people in the British West Indies, to take effect in August 1834. The Act declares that the former enslaved people must serve a period of apprenticeship before receiving full emancipation. Originally this period was set at six years, but it was later reduced to four.
1833 William Wilberforce dies on 29 July, three days after the bill to emancipate enslaved people is passed.
1838 Emancipation of enslaved people in British territories. Colonial assemblies pass laws against vagrancy and squatting to support the planters’ interests.
1839 A group of 49 enslaved Africans on board the slave ship Amistad revolt off the coast of Cuba. The ship lands at New London, USA, where the Africans are taken into custody. American abolitionists take up their cause and in March 1841 the Supreme Court upholds their freedom.
1840 J.W.M. Turner’s controversial painting ‘The Slave Ship’ (also called ‘Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon coming on’) is put on display at the Royal Academy in London. The same exhibition also includes Auguste Biard’s painting ‘Scene on the Coast of Africa’. Scene on the coast of Africa. Repro ID F0889
1865 The Thirteenth Amendment marks the abolition of slavery in the USA at the end of the American Civil War.
1865 The largest and most famous uprising by black Jamaicans. In a riot in Morant Bay the crowd attacks the police station and the local militia killing 17 Europeans and wounding 32. Over a few days a number of plantations are also attacked. The authorities react violently and declare martial law. The ringleaders are executed and around 400 blacks are killed.
1886 Abolition of slavery in Cuba.
1888 Abolition of slavery in Brazil.
Also of interest
- Atlantic Worlds – A gallery exploring the relationships between Britain, Africa and the Americas, 1600-1850