abolitionists were those involved in the movement to end slavery in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Despite Spain having abolished colonial slavery in 1542, it had changed it laws again and throughout Europe, North America and the colonies slavery was widespread. Although in Britain servitude was abolished in the 17th century, slaves were imported from Africa, India and Asia (ostensibly as ‘personal servants) to England and her colonies. The Quakers were instrumental in founding the anti-slavery movement and in 1787 William Wilberforce established the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Other important abolitionists in Britain included Thomas Clarkson and Josiah Wedgwood, but there were many more on home soil and abroad. Together they campaigned for the end of slavery and purchased an area of land in South Africa which they named ‘Freetown’ and sent liberated slaves to – it is now the capital of Sierra Leone. The Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807, making the trade illegal throughout the British Empire, although that did not stop slaves from being owned. The Slavery Abolition Act was finally passed in 1833 and Trinidad became the first British colony to achieve total emancipation. Even after the act was passed, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (now Anti-Slavery International) continued to campaign for the end of slavery worldwide, making it the oldest international humanitarian organisation.
Other countries passed emancipation acts at different periods, for example France in 1848 and America in 1865. Adult and child slavery or forced labour is illegal in most countries today and against international humanitarian laws.