19th Century Anti-Slave Trade Petition To Parliament Goes Online

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 19 March 2007
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  • Archived article
screenshot of a website featuring three pieces of archive material

The new website contains a glimpse of the archive material that will go online in May 2007. © Parliamentary Archives

A seven-metre-long petition from 1806 is one of the first items to go online on a new website from the Parliamentary Archives, produced in conjunction with the 24 Hour Museum.

The list of more than 2,000 names is the biggest surviving anti-slave trade petition held in the Archives. It has been digitised to mark the bicentenary of the passing of the Act to abolish the British slave trade – the culmination of one of the first, and most successful, public campaigns in history. The Act was passed on March 25 1807.

The petition, available at www.parliament.uk/slavetrade, supported the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill of 1806 and was signed by inhabitants of Manchester. It was laid before the House of Lords on May 14 1806.

With the help of the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society all of the signatures on the petition have meticulously been transcribed to allow the public to search for ancestors.

“This document provides vivid and tangible evidence of the opposition to the slave trade at grassroots level, and the names provide a very real, personal dimension to the campaign to abolish the trade,” said David Prior, Assistant Clerk of the Records at the Parliamentary Archives. “Anyone whose ancestor signed the petition will have a unique insight into that person’s opinion on this issue at that time.”

close up of a petition featuring two columns of handwritten signatures

The anti-slave trade petition holds more than 2,000 names. © Parliamentary Archives

Also available online is part of the 1807 Act itself and a much smaller pro-slave trade petition. These documents along with others will feature in the major website being launched by the Parliamentary Archives in May (at the same website address).

The website, Parliament and the British Slave Trade 1600-1807, is being created to enable the public to access key documents for themselves and explore the complex relationship between Parliament and the slave trade.

The site will actively invite comment and debate on the subject of the slave trade and its abolition, and will include a learning section for schools. Teachers will be able to use the archive material to create their own resources for use in the classroom and find ideas for debates.

Both the Manchester abolition petition and the 1807 Act will be key exhibits in The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People exhibition in Westminster Hall from May 23 to September 23 2007 (a free exhibition). Find out more at Parliament and the British Slave Trade 1600-1807.

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