Slavery and Manchester in the fight for Abolition

Dr Michael Taylor

This is a recording of a past event
25 January 2022


What role did Manchester and Mancunians play in the fight over slavery and emancipation?

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.

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. In fact, it was not until 1823 that the Anti-Slavery Society, which pursued the abolition of slavery itself, was even founded.

A decade-long battle 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 and the pages of the London and regional press. In churches and chapels, and even in the Caribbean colonies themselves.

Dr Michael Taylor’s talk examines Manchester’s part in this complex story. He describes 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.

dr michael taylor

Dr Michael Taylor

Dr Michael Taylor is a historian of the British Isles and the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 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.

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