Daniel Halliday
Nov 27 · Last update 2 mo. ago.
What is the most historically significant event that influenced the abolition of slavery?
Many separate historical event lead to a gradual rejection of slavery in most parts of the world. Which one event was most poignant step towards the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery?
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Brazil, the last country of the Atlantic slave trade
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Despite abolition leading to a legal rejection, slavery continues...
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The United States’ abolition of slavery was most influential in the Americas
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Abolitionism in the British Empire stretched far and wide
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The seeds of abolitionism were sown in France
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Brazil, the last country of the Atlantic slave trade

The Atlantic slave trade was the industrial scale slave trading network in human history. The end of this was a poignant moment for human rights and the undoing of one of the biggest atrocities of human history and it occurred with the adoption of the ‘Lei Áurea’ (Golden Law) by Princess Isabel of Brazil in 1888. Although the law was a result of an abolition movement in Brazil, the country was also under foreign pressure from the British government who wanted to end any economic advantage Brazil may retain that could have affected their sugarcane exports from the Caribbean. Although this is a important moment, it should help us remember that the abolition of slavery was as much an economic move as a moral one.

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Despite abolition leading to a legal rejection, slavery continues...

The abolition of slavery has been a gradual process that various laws in many nations have tried to account for over the last 2000+ years. Despite this the end of slavery remains a long way off with millions thought to live in as slaves presently. There have been conscious efforts to abolish and make slavery illegal, but until it can be socially eradicated along with effect legal enforcement globally this cruel act will probably continue. Corruption and the perpetuation of harsh immigration laws fuelling human trafficking are keeping the industry of slavery alive in various forms, abolition should be seen as the first step towards elimination.

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The United States’ abolition of slavery was most influential in the Americas

The history of the Atlantic slave trade and the history of European settlement in the Americas are completely intertwined. So it is here that abolishing slavery was perhaps the most influential moral statement, as even colonies established on a foundation of a legalised slavery economy had deemed slavery as immoral and eventually illegal. Many northern states of what later became the United States passed laws aimed at the gradual abolition of slavery in the late 18th century. The Atlantic slave trade was abolished in the US in 1807 but internal slave trading continued until the end of the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

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Abolitionism in the British Empire stretched far and wide

A series of 18th century freedom lawsuits lead to the judgement that slavery did not exist in English Common Law and up to 15,000 slaves were freed in the United Kingdom. However slavery continued in the British overseas colonies and it was not until a parliamentary campaign led by William Wilberforce that the Slave Trade Act 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 were passed banning slave trading first in Britain then throughout the British Empire. The effect of this was influential as the British Empire accounted for a large amount of territory across the globe, and the government began to actively encouraged other nations to abolish slavery.

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The seeds of abolitionism were sown in France

The history of the abolition of slavery goes back to fourteenth century France when King Louis X declared that “France signifies freedom” meaning any slave that set foot on French soil would automatically be freed. Slavery continued in French colonies however, with Louis XIV later issuing the 1685 Code Noir decree guaranteeing rights for slaves. But it was through the European enlightenment that abolitionist sentiment grew, and slavery was finally abolished for the first time under the Rights of Man of the French constitution of 1795.

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