Blood, Money and Endless Paper: Slavery and Capital in British Imperial History

The history of slavery in Britain and the British Empire has placed the legislative milestones of anti‐slavery – the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and the abolition of slavery in 1833 – at the centre of historical inquiry. This essay considers why the passing of anti‐slavery laws, rather than the implementation of anti‐slavery reforms, has been so pivotal in the historiography. It asks what the history of slavery in Britain and the British Empire would look like if turned away from the bright line of emancipation, and toward the continuities between slavery and freedom. It places British approaches to the history of slavery into a wider historiographical context and considers how renewed emphasis on the physical experience and everyday routines of slavery and anti‐slavery, in tandem with a rigorous rethinking of the archives, might shape the future of the field.


  • Padraic X. Scanlan

Publication Type

Journal Name

History Compass