Ending the Slave Trade and Slavery in the British Empire: An Explanatory Case Study Utilizing Qualitative Methodology and Stratification and Class Theories

Jon-Michael Washington


Since 1833, slavery in the British Empire was outlawed due to cultural, social and economic reasons. The Slave Trade Act of 1807 passed the British Parliament and created the first step towards social, cultural and economic equality in the British Empire. Although slavery was not abolished until 26 years later, the United Kingdom was far more socially progressed than most countries in the world, including the United States which did not make valuable post-Civil War steps toward equality until the 1960s. The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed by Evangelical English Protestants and Quakers in 1878. Twenty years later, in 1807, the committee had sizable support in the British Parliament. The Slave Trade Act abolished the slave trade in the British Empire, but it did not outlaw slavery itself. It was confirmed in 1771 with Sommersett v. Stuart. Lord Mansfield, a judge in the King’s Bench Court of England, ordered that James Sommersett, a slave, be released from bondage, as well as the 14,000 slaves who lived in England. Applying the Stratification and Class Theories, the slave trade and the eventual abolition of slavery in the British Empire is qualitatively examined using an explanatory case study method. Using facts and statistics from primary and secondary sources through the application of document analysis and expert interview techniques, this paper tests the hypothesis that the social, cultural and, most importantly, economic atmosphere in the British Empire led to the abolition of the slave trade and the eventual abolition of slavery. This hypothesis is found to be valid based on the delineated findings.


Stratification and Class Theories; slavery; United Kingdom

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