Sugar bowl with gold inscription "East India sugar not made by slaves".
Sugar bowl with gold inscription © Norwich Museum
Sugar bowl with gold inscription © Norwich Museum

Ending Slavery

For much of the 18th century, few European or American people questioned slavery. Gradually on both sides of the Atlantic a few enlightened individuals, some of them Quakers, began to oppose it.

From the 1760s, activists in London challenged the morality and legality of the slave trade. They included people who had formerly been enslaved like Olaudah Equiano, as well as abolitionist campaigners like Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce.

Women who opposed slavery took the lead in boycotts of slave-grown produce, particularly sugar. Slavery abolitionists used badges and iconic images to publicise their views, like the sugar bowl above made by Wedgewood. Enormous petitions opposing the slave trade were delivered to the House of Commons.