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Collection Level Description: Papers of the Anti-Slavery Society

Reference: MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 16-24
Title: Papers of the Anti-Slavery Society
Dates of Creation: 1820-1951
Extent: 471 boxes, 2 crates, 246 volumes, 158 files

Language of Material: English

Administrative/Biographical History

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society was formed in 1909 through the amalgamation of the two bodies that form its name.

The roots of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society go back to the 18th century, and the beginnings of a largely Quaker-inspired movement to abolish the slave trade. However, even after the abolition of the trade in Britain in 1807, and the emancipation of slaves in the colonies in 1834, an alternative form of slavery, the 'apprenticeship system' continued until 1838 in the West Indies. Against this background, in 1823, a number of men led by William Wilberforce and Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton began to meet regularly in London to discuss the slave trade and slavery in British possessions. The resulting organisation, the Committee on Slavery, later changed its name to The Society for the Amelioration and Gradual Abolition of Slavery, and in 1835 to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, committed to ending slavery worldwide. During the 19th century, the Society campaigned on a number of related issues, including the trade in slave-cultivated sugar from Brazil and Cuba, and the East African slave trade (resulting from its close contacts with Dr. Livingstone). In the 1890s its mandate began to include the ill treatment of indigenous peoples, leading to its eventual merger with the Aborigines' Protection Society

The Aborigines' Protection Society was founded in 1837 by Dr. Thomas Hodgkin and others through a Parliamentary select committee set up in 1835 to investigate means of ensuring justice, spreading civilization, etc. among the indigenous peoples of the Empire. Its first President was Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, and its early work included the establishment of correspondence with "intelligent and benevolent individuals abroad", the publication of several reports, including on the natives of Australia, Upper Canada and South Africa, and the general arousal of public opinion. For most of the 19th century it continued to lobby in the same geographical areas, as well as against encroachments on the North American Indians, the traffic in Coolie and Polynesian labour, and the sale of liquor to natives.

After World War One the newly amalgamated British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society attempted to work with the League of Nations for the respecting of human rights as part of international law. This work culminated in 1956 with the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, which listed and defined all slave-related practices. In 1975 it campaigned for the setting up of a panel of experts in the United Nations, later known as the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. In 1990 the Society changed its name to Anti-Slavery International. Its main current areas of interest include debt bondage, the trafficking of human beings and the worst forms of child labour

In terms of related organisations relevant to this collection, the Mico Charity administered funds for the education of negroes (though the legacy was not used for this purpose until after the establishment of the apprenticeship system in the West Indies and the subsequent setting up of schools for apprentices and their children); the National Freedmen's Aid Society was in close communication with an American society of the same name established after the Civil War; and the Committee for the Welfare of Africans in Europe was formed during World War One to protect the welfare of native labour contingents in France and to care for native fighting forces.

Scope and Content

Brit. Emp. s. 16

Brit. Emp. s. 17

Brit. Emp. s. 18

Brit. Emp. s. 19

Brit. Emp. s. 20

Brit. Emp. s. 21

Brit. Emp. s. 22

Brit. Emp. s. 23

Brit. Emp. s. 24

Uncatalogued papers, 1972-1981

The Anti-Slavery Society Pictorial Collection

System of Arrangement

The papers were initially arranged in 9 separate collections (Brit. Emp. s. 16-24); each subsequent deposit was divided and accrued to the same initial collections as necessary.

Administrative Information

Access Conditions

Bodleian reader's ticket required:

Reproduction Restrictions

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Existence of Copies

Sections of the above papers (refs. Brit. Emp. s. 18, 20, 22) have been microfilmed. Further microfilm of papers held at the library, including correspondence of the Secretaries of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 19th century, letters to the Mico Charity Trustees, 1835-1842, and minutes and correspondence of the Secretaries of the Aborigines' Protection Society, 19th century, is available to purchase from World Microfilms Publications.

Further Information

Finding Aids

Listed as no. 2 in Manuscript Collections of Africana in Rhodes House Library Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1968). Handlists are also available in the library reading room.

Related Units of Description

The library holds volumes of The colonial intelligencer; or Aborigines' friend, comprising the transactions of the Aborigines' Protection Society... (London, s.d., 1847-1909) (ref. 100.221 r. 43).

The Society's library at 180, Brixton Road, London holds 3000 volumes relating to various aspects of the slave trade.

Various anti-slavery records are held at the John Rylands Library and are also available on microfilm from World Microfilms Publications.

Publication Note

Divided hearts. Britain and the American Civil War by R.J.M. Blackett (Great Britain; Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State University Press, c2001); Beating against the barriers. biographical essays in nineteenth-century Afro-American history by R.J.M. Blackett (Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State University Press, 1986); Black prophets of justice. activist clergy before the Civil War by David E. Swift (London; Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State University Press, c1989); Sol Plaatje. selected writings ed. Brian Willan (Athens, Ohio, Ohio University Press, 1997, c1996).

Access Points

Anti-Slavery International | formerly the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society | see also the Committee on Slavery

Mico Charity

National Freedmen's Aid Society

Committee for the Welfare of Africans in Europe

Blacks | Charities

Charity-schools | West Indies


Indigenous peoples

Great Britain | Anti-slavery movements

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
27 June 2011