Moves in the 1830s to abolish slavery itself

The statue of William Wilberforce outside his family home in HUll

The 1807 Act abolished the slave trade in the British colonies but it did not abolish slavery itself.

In the 1830s, a number of Acts were passed that fundamentally changed British society and the lives of millions of people living in British colonies.

The Reform Act of 1832 brought an end to the old system whereby most MPs were allowed to buy their seats in Parliament. The new Parliament of 1833 included men (women were not as yet allowed to become MPs) who were connected with the new textile industries based in Britain.

In August 1833, the Slave Emancipation Act was passed, giving all slaves in the British empire their freedom, albeit after a set period of years. Plantation owners received compensation for the 'loss of their slaves' in the form of a government grant.

In contrast, enslaved people received no compensation and continued to face much hardship. They remained landless, and the wages offered on the plantations after emancipation were extremely low.

The 1833 Act did not come into force until 1 August 1834. The first step was the freeing of all children under six. However, although the many thousands of enslaved people in the British West Indies were no longer legally slaves after 1 August 1834, they were still made to work as unpaid apprentices for their former masters. These masters continued to ill-treat and exploit them. Enslaved people in the British Caribbean finally gained their freedom at midnight on 31 July 1838.

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