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1834: The End of Slavery?

Not all parts of the British Empire came under the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. Slavery continued in territories run by the East India Company, Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) and St Helena.

The market for slaves did not disappear following abolition in Britain. Traders continued to meet demand in places like Brazil and Cuba.

To combat illegal slave trading the British Navy organised anti-slavery patrols off the West African coast. Between 1809 and 1869 the Navy seized over 1,600 slave ships and freed about 150,000 Africans.

Despite this, it is estimated that a further 1 million people were enslaved and transported throughout the 19th century.

A question mark hangs over the wreck of the Douro, a Liverpool ship that in 1843 was wrecked and sunk beneath the seas at Round Rock, Isles of Scilly. This was 36 years after British ships were banned from the slave trade.

Reputed to be heading to Portugal when it went down, the ship had a cargo of textiles and munitions. Divers have since found large numbers of manillas - bronze bracelet-shaped trading tokens on the wreck. These were used as currency to trade for slaves in West Africa.

The manillas found in the Douro wreck suggest that the ship might have been involved in illegal slaving, or it was carrying supplies for the banned trade.

Bracelet shaped manilla
Manilla found in the wreck of the Douro © Historic England
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