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Rare and extensive collection of British parliamentary papers
on the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century

Correspondence ... relating to the slave trade. [In some volumes: "relative to the slave trade", "on the slave trade" or "respecting the slave trade"].
London, London, R. G. Clarke (1831); William Clowes (1838-1845); T. R. Harrison (1848-1871), 1831-1871. 18 volumes. Folio (33 x 21 cm). With several tables of data. Ads 11-12: Red cloth (stamp on the Public Record Office bookplate: "Re-bound 29 [& 25] August 1933"), spine with gold fillets, title, volume numbers and year. Ads 1-10, 13-18: later heavy blue paper wrappers with a white label on each front wrapper, reproducing the printed title at a reduced scale. Ads 1-3, 6-12, 14, 16, 18 top edge gilt; all other edges sprinkled in blue.
€ 9,500
A collection of 18 mostly unnumbered volumes of printed transcriptions of diplomatic correspondence, correspondence to and from British commissioners in the various courts, letters sent and received by judges in British vice-admiralty courts and naval officers at various South American, West African and Cape stations. Part of the reason for Britains campaign to abolish the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century was the establishment of several international tribunals of a continuing and more-or-less permanent nature to adjudicate upon vessels seized on suspicion of trading in African slaves after the trade had been declared illegal in the British Empire in 1807 (though slavery itself remained legal in most of the Empire until 1833). For all or part of the period from 1819 to 1871, mixed or joint commissions sat in Rio de Janeiro, Boa Vista (Cape Verde Islands), Suriname and Havana under treaties for the suppression of the slave trade that Britain had signed with Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, the United States and several Spanish-American republics. Courts of mixed commissions were responsible for the condemnation of over 600 slave vessels and the liberation of nearly 80,000 slaves.
The letters reprinted in the British parliamentary papers reveal the minutiae of the inner workings of the courts, their judges and clerks as well as the work of naval officers tasked with finding ships engaged in the illegal trade of slaves. Extensively covered in the documents was the work of local British officers reporting the results and latest court rulings to the foreign secretary and later Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston from as early as 1831. What those early letters revealed was the rapidly changing attitudes towards the slave trade and forced labour in the still relatively young Empire of Brazil. The letters also give an insight into the social lives of recently freed slaves as they made their depositions at the court. Finding and condemning the slave vessels was at best an arduous and more often a downright dangerous task. Owners of slave vessels frequently tried to hide their ownership behind obscure transactions and renaming practices of the vessels or false flag operations. It was the task of the British commissioners and naval officers to try to uncover the network behind the Atlantic slave traders and seek to bring them to justice. On several occasions, the crew of the slave vessels did not hand over control over the vessels voluntarily, forcing the British commissioners to defend themselves during their mission. Yet it was of course the enslaved that suffered the most during the passages at sea. Frequently the letters and their detailed reporting on the route and the number of slaves onboard particular vessels allows the reconstruction of the route of a ship and the travails and suffering during its passage decimated those who had been forced on those hellish journeys.
At least many of the volumes were issued both alone, without a volume number, and as part of two different series, with the volume numbers for both series on the title-page. The volumes in the present collection are unnumbered except for ads 11-12, which have an additional title-page (and contents leaf) recording them as volumes 17-18 of the 20 volumes series of Accounts and papers, but volumes XLII-XLIII in the larger series.
Generally good to very good condition, some very slight browning and foxing, some marginal notes in most volumes, water stains in several volumes.
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Related Subjects:

Africa  >  Central & West Africa | East & Southern Africa | Slavery
Americas  >  Brazil | Middle America & Caribbean Islands | Slavery | South America
Europe  >  United Kingdom & Ireland
History, law & philosophy  >  Economics, Numismatics & Trade | Law & Politics | Slavery