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Archive of the Anti-Slavery Society


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Correspondence, financial papers, printed material, photographs, engraving plates, and blocks.


  • Creation: 1757-1982


118.47 Linear metres (2236 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Dutch; Flemish
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish; Castilian

English, with occasional use of Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 16 / A1, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 16-25 / A-K

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 457, 5155


Papers of The Anti-Slavery Society, 1757-1982.

Biographical / Historical

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society was formed in 1909 through the amalgamation of the two bodies that form its name.

The roots of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society go back to the 18th century, and the beginnings of a largely Quaker-inspired movement to abolish the slave trade. However, even after the abolition of the trade in Britain in 1807, and the emancipation of slaves in the colonies in 1834, an alternative form of slavery, the 'apprenticeship system' continued until 1838 in the West Indies. Against this background, in 1823, a number of men led by William Wilberforce and Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton began to meet regularly in London to discuss the slave trade and slavery in British possessions. The resulting organisation, the Committee on Slavery, later changed its name to The Society for the Amelioration and Gradual Abolition of Slavery, and in 1835 to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, committed to ending slavery worldwide. During the 19th century, the Society campaigned on a number of related issues, including the trade in slave-cultivated sugar from Brazil and Cuba, and the East African slave trade (resulting from its close contacts with Dr. Livingstone). In the 1890s its mandate began to include the ill treatment of indigenous peoples, leading to its eventual merger with the Aborigines' Protection Society.

The Aborigines' Protection Society was founded in 1837 by Dr. Thomas Hodgkin and others through a Parliamentary Select Committee set up in 1835 to investigate means of ensuring justice, 'spreading civilization', etc. among the indigenous peoples of the Empire. Its first president was Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, and its early work included the establishment of correspondence with "intelligent and benevolent individuals abroad", the publication of several reports, including on the natives of Australia, Upper Canada and South Africa, and the general arousal of public opinion. For most of the 19th century it continued to lobby in the same geographical areas, as well as against encroachments on Native American territory, the traffic in labourers from Asia and Polynesia, and the sale of liquor to indigenous peoples.

After World War One the newly amalgamated British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society attempted to work with the League of Nations to make the respect of human rights part of international law. This work culminated in 1956 with the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, which listed and defined all slave-related practices. In 1975 it campaigned for the setting up of a panel of experts in the United Nations, later known as the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. In 1990 the Society changed its name to Anti-Slavery International. Its main current areas of interest include debt bondage, the trafficking of human beings and the worst forms of child labour.

In terms of related organisations relevant to this collection, the Mico Charity administered funds for the education of former slaves (though the legacy was not used for this purpose until after the establishment of the apprenticeship system in the West Indies and the subsequent setting up of schools for apprentices and their children); the National Freedmen's Aid Society was in close communication with an American society of the same name established after the Civil War; and the Committee for the Welfare of Africans in Europe was formed during World War One to protect the welfare of native labour contingents in France and to care for native fighting forces.

Anti-Slavery International was formed in 1839 as the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Over the years the organisation's name has changed several times:

  1. 1839-1909: The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society
  2. 1909-1947: The Anti-Slavery Society and Aborigines Protection Society
  3. 1947-1956: The Anti-Slavery Society
  4. 1956-1990: The Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights
  5. 1990-1995: Anti-Slavery International for the Protection of Human Rights
  6. 1995-present: Anti-Slavery International

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and Aborigines Protection Society up to 1941 were purchased from the Society for the Bodleian Library by the Rhodes Trustees in 1951. It was agreed that the Library would have the right to acquire, at ten year intervals, the Society's papers of the previous decade. When the 1941-1951 accession was due to arrive a second payment was made to the Society to ensure that all of its papers to the end of the twentieth century would come to the Library.

With the Accessions 1941-1951 came the papers of Kathleen, Lady Simon, DBE, the wife of Sir John Simon, PCSI, GCVO. These papers had been deposited after her death on 27th March 1955 by her son, B.O'D. Manning, with the Anti-Slavery Society. When the Society's 1941-1951 papers were acquired by the Library Mr. Manning gave his mother's papers as an addition.

Related Materials

The Anti-Slavery Society Pictorial Collection is also held by the Bodleian Library. This comprises lantern slides and glass negatives mainly relating to Africa and dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Anti-Slavery Reporter journals held by the Library are catalogued on SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online). Briefly, the journals held by the Library are as follows (year, title, shelfmark):

  1. 1825-1833 (Feb.), The Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter, 100.221 r. 16 (i)
  2. 1833 (Mar.)-1839, no issues published for this period
  3. 1840-1852, The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, 100.221 s.3 (ii)
  4. 1853-1994, The Anti-Slavery Reporter, 100.221 r. 16 (iii)
  5. 1995-current, Anti-Slavery Reporter, DS 00604.

(i) "Monthly" is dropped from the title as of February 1831 but the Bodleian Library's bound volumes still show this on the spine, and it also appear on SOLO with "Monthly" in the title

(ii) shown as "New Series" from 1846. Volumes 1841, 1843, 1852 are 1969 reprints (Kraus, Nendeln, Liechstenstein)

(iii) incorporates 'Aborigine's Friend' from October 1909. The Anti-Slavery Society changed to Anti-Slavery International in 1990; some issues have this on the spine and 'The Reporter' in some cases

Also on SOLO with a reference to the Anti-Slavery Society is The British Emancipator (100.221 t. 1) which was published during 1838-1839 "under the sanction of the Central Negro Emancipation Committee" and ceased with the publication of the 1840 British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter (issues of The British Emancipator held by the Bodleian Library are incomplete).

Anti-Slavery International's collection of 18th and 19th century literature on the transatlantic slave trade has been digitised and is available on the Recovered Histories website.


  • Swaisland, Henry Charles (1968), The Aborigines Protection Society and British Southern and West Africa, Thesis 600.121 r. 107 (MS. D. Phil. d. 4293)
Catalogue of the archive of the Anti-Slavery Society, 1757-1982
Finding aid prepared by P. M. Pugh, Sarah Mackesy, P. W. Tolmie, Marion Lowman, and Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom