Slavery and Manchester in the Fight for Abolition

Dr Michael Taylor
Tuesday, 25 January 2022 - 7:00pm


When Parliament outlawed the British slave trade in 1807, it did nothing to set free more than 700,000 enslaved people in the British West Indies.  Indeed, it was not until 1823 that the Anti-Slavery Society, which pursued the abolition of slavery itself, was even founded.

Dr Taylor's talk will explore the role of Manchester and Mancunians in the decade-long fight over slavery and emancipation that was fought between British abolitionists and the powerful slaveholding lobby known as the ‘West India Interest’.  This fight took place on battlefields as diverse as the Houses of Parliament, the pages of the London and regional press, in churches and chapels, and even in the Caribbean colonies themselves.

Manchester, with its strong Dissenting tradition, was a hotbed of abolitionist enthusiasm which produced some of the largest anti-slavery petitions of the day.  But that fact alone does not tell the full, complex story.  This talk will also examine the role of prominent north-westerners such as George Hibbert and Robert Peel in defending slavery from 1823 until the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.


About the speaker

Dr Michael Taylor is an historian of the British Isles and the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  He gained a double first and his PhD from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge - for whom he also won University Challenge.  His book The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery was based on his PhD research, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Orwell Prize for Political Writing.  He has written for the Guardian, the Literary Review, and the London Review of Books, as well as providing the introduction to a new edition of Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative for Capstone Classics.

Event image: Anti-Abolitionist cartoon by George Cruickshank (1825) – from the British Library collection



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