The emancipated Empire
A British Empire built on slavery, and elevated by antislavery. In Britain, the antislavery movement grew from many roots during the 18th century, but a common thread connecting political, cultural, and intellectual activities merged into the campaign. Padraic Scanlan, a history research associate at the University of Cambridge, explores the UK's role in the slave trade and the eventual abolition of slavery. "There is a common thread connecting these disparate political, cultural and intellectual movements that coalesced into popular antislavery in Britain: all flowed from the growth of the 18th-century empire. The prosperity and expansion that slavery made possible in the British Empire also helped to make antislavery a powerful, if inchoate, part of British culture. Empire raised British consciousness against slavery. At the same time, antislavery presumed British power and superiority – abolishing slavery would prove that Britain was modern, enlightened and fit to govern its empire. Antislavery in Britain was not a threat to empire; empire gave it shape and impetus."