The History of Mary Prince


Mary Prince was born into enslavement in Bermuda. The history of Mary Prince, related by herself, is a first-person account of the horrifically brutal treatment experienced by Prince, and others, as she was bought and sold on between slave-‘owners’. She describes a system in which ‘mothers could only weep and mourn over their children, they could not save them from cruel masters – from the whip, the rope, and the cow-skin’.

Published in 1831, Prince’s History was hugely important in the campaign to abolish the slave system. It is the first published account of enslavement written by a woman; a number of formerly enslaved men living in England, such as Olaudah Equiano, had previously published memoirs.

After the book’s publication, very little is known of Prince’s life.

Full title:
The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave. Related by herself.
1831, London
Mary Prince
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Britain’s involvement with New World slavery and the transatlantic slave trade

Article by:
Abdul Mohamud, Robin Whitburn
Politics and religion, Travel, colonialism and slavery

With a focus on the 17th and 18th centuries, Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn trace the history of Britain’s large-scale involvement in the enslavement of Africans and the transatlantic slave trade. Alongside this, Mohamud and Whitburn consider examples of resistance by enslaved people and communities, the work of abolitionists and the legacy of slavery.

African writers and Black thought in 18th-century Britain

Article by:
S I Martin
Politics and religion, Travel, colonialism and slavery, Language and ideas

By 1780, Britain had a Black population of at least 20,000 people. S I Martin describes how four writers, taken from Africa as children and sold into slavery, grew up to write works that challenged British ideas about race, called for African brotherhood and demanded the abolition of the slave trade.

Oroonoko: Historical and political contexts

Article by:
Janet Todd
Travel, colonialism and slavery, Politics and religion, Rise of the novel

As a young woman, Aphra Behn was a spy for Charles II's government in Antwerp and probably in South America. Two decades later, she used these experiences to write Oroonoko, the story of a prince kidnapped from West Africa, enslaved and taken to a British colony in South America. Janet Todd explains how this extraordinary novella was shaped by the historical and political contexts and beliefs of Behn's time.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African

Created by: Ignatius Sancho

Ignatius Sancho used the medium of letters to record his thoughts on many of the major political, economic and ...


Created by: Aphra Behn

Oroonoko overview Oroonoko is a short novel, styling itself ‘a true history’, set in the English colony ...

'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point'

Created by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s (1806-1861) original version of this anti-slavery poem appeared in The Liberty ...