Slavery and abolition

Brycchan Carey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


SLAVE. n.s. [esclave, French. It is said to have its original from Slavi, or Sclavonians, subdued and sold by the Venetians.] One mancipated to a master; not a freeman; a dependant. The condition of servants was different from what it is now, they being generally slaves, and such as were bought and sold for money. South. Johnson's lifetime coincided almost exactly with the rise and fall of the British slave trade. Some Britons had been involved in slave trading as early as the sixteenth century, but for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Great Britain was a relatively minor participant. Britain signaled its intention to make serious money from slave trading with the establishment of the Royal Adventurers into Africa in 1660. This company, which genuinely was led by members of the restored royal family, shortly after became the Royal African Company. The asiento It was not until the early eighteenth century, however, that Britain wrested control of the slave trade from the Spanish, who had dominated slave trading throughout the seventeenth century. The turning point was the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). On the face of it this was a dynastic conflict, which contemporaries knew would determine the balance of power in Europe, but in the event it would also determine the relationship between Europe, Africa, and the New World for the rest of the eighteenth century and, arguably, for much longer. The war was concluded with the Peace of Utrecht (1713). As part of the negotiations towards this treaty, Spain granted Britain the right to supply its colonies in the New World with slaves, an agreement known as the asiento. From this point onwards, Britain became the foremost slave-trading nation, a position it continued to occupy until it voluntarily abolished its slave trade in 1807.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSamuel Johnson in Context
EditorsJack Lynch
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781139047852
ISBN (Print)9780521190107
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


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