Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ending Slavery in all its Forms


Ending Slavery in all its Forms: Legal
Abolition and Effective Emancipation
in Historical Perspective

Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, Hull, UK

The legal abolition of slavery is often presented as a narrative endpoint, leaving an
impression that subsequent events marked a fundamental departure from the earlier status quo.
This paper challenges this complacent viewpoint, developing an analytical distinction between
legal abolition and effective emancipation, with the former being defined in terms of a
circumscribed change in official status, and the latter encompassing an evolving series of
aspirations and expectations. To advance this line of argument, I interrogate three different postabolition settings; the British Caribbean, Colonial Nigeria, and the Indian Subcontinent. By giving pride of place to the actions and outlooks of individuals who have been formally released from servile relationships, and charting their subsequent achievements – or lack thereof – these case studies serve to cast new light upon evolving efforts to combat contemporary forms of slavery.

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