Glossary

Abolition
To abolish something is to put an end to it.
Act of Abolition
Parliamentary legislation passed on March 25th 1807 which abolished the transatlantic slave trade within British colonies and on British ships.
Abolitionist
a) Before 1807, this meant a person campaigning for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
b) After 1807, abolitionist came to mean a person who wanted existing slaves emancipated.
Abstention
Some campaigners called on people to give up buying and eating West Indian sugar. There was a small campaign in the 1780s and a much larger campaign, run by female abolitionists, in the 1820s. The word 'boycott', one more familiar today, was not used until much later.
Anglican
A branch of the Church of England, approving of Catholic doctrine or ritual.
Anti-slavery
Individuals who were against continuing slavery might be called 'anti-slavery'.
Anti-slavery Society
Also known as the 'London Society for the Mitigating and Gradually Abolishing the State of Slavery Through Out the British Dominions', the Anti-Slavery Society was set up in a London tavern in 1823. It was founded by some of the original members (for example, Thomas Clarkson) of the 1787 committee but also attracted a new generation of abolitionists.
By 1824, there were over 200 anti-slavery branches around the country. However, by 1830, many of their younger members were dissatisfied with a gradual abolition and wanted immediate emancipation for slaves.
Autobiographical
The account of an individual's life as written by that individual.
Ballad
A simple song or poem, usually containing news or a story. Ballads were a good way of circulating ideas to people who couldn't read.
Barbados
An island, formerly a British colony, in the south of the Caribbean region.
Britannia
The Latin name for Britain but also the name for the figure of Britain personified as female.
British West Indies
A term that refers to territories in and around the Caribbean that were once colonised by the British including Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas.
Campaign
A course of action or publicity designed to arouse public interest and influence opinion.
Caribbean
A region of the American continent consisting of the Caribbean sea, a group of islands including Barbados, Jamaica and Haiti as well as the surrounding coast.
Colonial
Belonging to or connected to a colony, for example, a country of the British Empire.
Committee
A group of individuals united behind a cause or common interest.
Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
The first organisation set up by 12 men who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. The group was founded on 22nd May 1787 and its first members included Granville Sharp, Joseph Woods, Samuel Hoarse Jr, William Dillwyn, George Harrison, James Phillips, Richard Phillips, Thomas Clarkson, Philip Sansom, John Lloyd, Joseph Hopper and John Barton. They met at a printing shop at 2 George Yard in London. Most of the members were Quakers.
Corresponding Society
After 1789, Corresponding Societies began to appear in towns around Britain. Corresponding Societies were loose networks of societies who wrote to each other to campaign for social reform and political democracy and were one of the first examples of political organisations formed by and for working people.
Demerara
One of the original British colonies, joined together to form British Guiana. Now one of the islands of Guyana.
Emancipation
The action or process of setting someone free, for example, from slavery.
Empire
The British Empire refers to a number of countries, not of the British Isles, but historically under British rule.
French Revolution
The French Revolution of 1789 helped inspire radical thinking around the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity. Echoes of this thinking can be seen in Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man (1791) which argued for similar rights in the UK.
Gold Coast
The name of a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa that became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957.
Haiti/ St Domingue
This is one of the largest Caribbean islands. In the eighteenth century, it was a French colony and with its 790 sugar estates, 2000 coffee plantations and 465,000 slaves, it was one of the most brutal but successful slave economies in the Caribbean. In 1791, a slave rebellion occurred on the island, sweeping away the colonial regime. It was so successful that, in 1804, St Domingue became the free republic of Haiti.
Jamaica
An island of the Caribbean situated in the Caribbean sea, east of the Central American mainland.
John Bull
A personification of the United Kingdom.
Ladies Association
Anti-slavery societies set up by women were called Ladies Associations. By the 1820s, women were some of the most fervent supporters of the abolitionist movement though they tended to focus on the more domestic aspects of the campaign, advocating, for example, the boycott of sugar.
Lobbying
Campaigning with the hope to influence a vote.
Logo
An image or icon associated with a particular group or cause.
Loyalist Society
Paranoia about revolutionary ideas became widespread during the Napoleonic wars. To counter radicalism, the government encouraged the setting up of reactionary societies to encourage conservative and patriotic values. In some extreme cases, societies also tried to hunt down and destroy subversive literature.
Middle Passage
The voyage of slave ships from the west coast of West Africa carrying slaves to the Americas and the Caribbean.
Pamphlet
A leaflet or short, bound booklet. As they were cheaper to produce and bind than a book, pamphlets were often used by campaigners or those with a political, social or religious idea. They were ideal for communicating with a wide range of people.
Paranoia
Fear or anxiety about the occurrence of a particular event.
Petition
A formal written request or application, especially one signed by many people, to a particular individual or group, for example, a government.
Patriotism
Being devoted to one's country.
Plantation
The general name given to land cultivated by slaves for a plantation owner. A plantation would grow crops such as cotton, coffee, tobacco and sugar.
Planter
The owner of a plantation in the West Indies where slaves worked. Many planters were absentee owners - they kept estates in the West Indies but rarely went there and lived in Britain.
Propaganda
The publication of resources and ideas designed to encourage a particular and specific response.
Pro-slavery
Individuals who supported the slave trade and wished for it to continue might be called 'pro-slavery'. Often, these individuals would have an economic interest in slavery.
Quaker
Quakers are members of a Christian religious sect known as the Society of Friends, founded in the 17th century. Quakers were non-conformist - they did not follow the rituals or liturgy of the Church of England. While free to practice their beliefs, Quakers were often marginalised in 18th century society. They supported the abolition of slavery long before it became a popular mainstream cause. Most of the members of the 1787 Committee were Quakers and the national network of Quakers helped spread the campaign all over the country.
Radicalism
In a late 18th century context, radicals were seen as people who held non-conventional opinions, usually advocating drastic reform of the political, social or religious status quo). Supporters of the French Revolution were often called radicals. In the 1790s, radical societies sprang up in many British towns, inspired by ideas of revolution. Supporters of democracy were also radical, as were supporters of rights for women. Even though Wilberforce denied it, abolitionists were very much part of this climate of radicalism.
Resistance
To resist something is to oppose it.
Revolt
An uprising or rebellion against the established ruler or law.
Rights of Man
A book by Thomas Paine arguing for popular democracy. In 1791, his ideas were considered dangerously subversive and even treasonable.
Satirical
A method of speech, writing or artistic expression intended to be sarcastic, ironic or to provoke ridicule.
Sect
A religious group.
West Indies
The term refers to the parts of America first discovered by European explorers, so called because they were initially believed to be part of Asia. They consist of the islands of the Caribbean sea, also known as the Antilles.
West Indies Planters Lobby
A group of property owners brought together to defend their financial interest in the West Indies slave trade. They included plantation owners, merchants, ship owners and bankers. Many of the wealthiest men in the UK had some economic interest in the slave trade.
Woodcut
A method of illustrating books which had been used since the 15th century when books were first printed. A design is carved into a wooden block, leaving the design in relief. This can then be stamped onto paper.