The Centre is building on two earlier phases of work by the LBS team on British slave-ownership, which worked backwards from the end of slavery to trace the development of British colonial slavery. In 1833 Parliament finally abolished slavery in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape. The slave trade had been abolished in 1807, but it had taken another 26 years to effect the emancipation of the enslaved. However, in place of slavery the negotiated settlement established a system of apprenticeship, tying the newly freed men and women into another form of unfree labour for fixed terms. It also granted £20 million in compensation, to be paid by British taxpayers to the former slave-owners. That compensation money provided the starting point for our first project. In the second phase, we tracked back to c. 1763 the ownership histories of the 4000 or so estates identified in the first phase. In doing so, we doubled the number of estates identified and added another 20,000 slave-owners. By its nature the second phase will never be truly complete, and we continue to add to our data and publish new findings under the Centre.
At the core of the project is a database containing, first, the identity of all slave-owners in the British colonies at the time slavery ended and, second, all the estates in the British Caribbean colonies. As the two earlier phases of work unfolded, we amassed, analysed and incorporated information about the activities, affiliations and legacies of all the British slave-owners on the database, building this Encyclopedia of British Slave-Owners.
For more on the current work of the Centre read the current newsletter.