by Derry Nairn
New research by University College London has revealed that massive amounts of government compensation were paid out to investors when slavery was abolished in the 19th century. Dr Nick Draper has discovered that £20 million worth of payments were made, a figure that equates to a staggering 40% of government expenditure of the day.
Even more surprising are the backgrounds to the recipients. The image many today would hold of slave owners may involve upper class affectations and West Indian sugar plantations. The truth however, is that many ordinary middle-class Londoners invested in the slave trade just like it was any other industry. Some of the 'slavers' revealed by Draper's research include poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, MP George Watson Taylor, Lord Mayor John Atkins and lawyer J
Dr Draper commented:
‘It's important that we recognise the ways in which slavery permeates London's history, not only through direct slave-ownership by Londoners but also through more complex financial and commercial ties between the slave-system and people living and working in London. Slavery was not the only influence onMuch of the research is on view at the exhibition Slavers of
's development, but it was an important one, especially in areas such as Marylebone, and is too often overlooked.' London
Read here about some of our articles on slavery and abolition:
- Slavery & the British - James Walvin reviews current ideas about the vast network of slavery that shaped British and world history for more than two centuries.
- Frederick Douglass: A Black Abolitionist in Ireland - Bill Rolston describes the impact of an erstwhile slave, who toured the Emerald Isle speaking out against slavery in 1845.
- Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology - M. I. Finley discusses debates over how different eras have treated the subject.