Enslaved is excited to be working with Legacies of British Slave-ownership at University College London. Legacies researches individuals in Britain and former British colonies who owned or were otherwise associated with the ownership of the enslaved in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope. Through this research they seek to understand how slavery shaped modern British society.
In 1833, Parliament abolished slavery in the British Caribbean, Mauritius, and the Cape. While this resulted in emancipation, most adult slaves were then compelled to work as “apprentices”, initially for the next six years though this was reduced to four. And critically, the slave-owners were granted a total of £20 million in compensation from the British government for the loss of their ‘property’ – the enslaved.
Each slave-owner submitted a claim with descriptions of every slave that they owned to receive their compensation. These records, held in the British National Archives, are a foundational source of information for the project. Because slaves were assigned a monetary value based on their “classification” — gender, age, type of work, and level of skill—these documents provide insight into both the demographics of the slaves in these regions as well as the labor these slaves were most commonly used for.
The first phase of the project, carried out between 2009 and 2012 focused on the slave-owners themselves, using biographical information to trace what happened to the compensation money and to analyze the legacies – economic, cultural, social and political – of slave-owners in Britain. The second phase, Structure and Significance of British Caribbean Slave-ownership 1763-1833, undertaken since 2013, has shifted to an analysis of estate or plantation ownership in the Caribbean since c.1760.
The original Legacies project was founded by Catherine Hall, the principal investigator, Nick Draper and Keith McClelland. Also involved has been Rachel Lang as administrator/researcher and a number of other researchers.
The website and its underlying database (www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs) can be searched on multiple criteria to find individuals, estates or to explore the various legacy strands. There are also searchable maps showing the geographical distribution of slave-owners and the location of estates in Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada.
The work is ongoing; and it is expected that very large amounts of data on the enslaved themselves will be added over the next couple of years to expand the scope of the project.
Funding for the project has come from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Hutchins Center for African & African-American Research at Harvard University and University College London. The project has received media coverage in The Independent, The Guardian, BBC Online and elsewhere, and was also the basis for two one-hour television programs produced by the BBC in 2015.