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When did slavery become illegal in Britain?

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Slavery came to an official end in Britain in 1833. A bill was passed through the House of Commons and, shortly after, the House of Lords. The bill banned slavery throughout the British Empire. There were a few factors that contributed to the passing of the bill to abolish slavery.

Economically speaking, things had changed with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in England. Manufactured goods became more of a focus of the economy, while slave-produced agricultural products declined in importance. This meant that slavery was no longer as essential to the British economy as it had been during the 1600s and 1700s.

In addition to the reduced economic importance, slave rebellions proved that it would not be easy to keep slaves in their situation. A successful slave revolt in Haiti led by Toussaint L'Ouverture was followed by slave revolts in other Caribbean territories like Barbados and Jamaica. These revolts led to the idea that slavery was becoming more trouble than it was worth.

Finally, there was also an abolition movement in England to bring slavery to an end. The abolitionists were supported by various Christian religious groups who strengthened their voices.

With these factors considered, the British government began action to end slavery. With the passing of the 1833 bill to abolish slavery, slaves were not, however, immediately granted full freedom. Slaves were to serve an apprenticeship for 6 years. Slave owners were also to be compensated for the loss of their slaves. After protests from the public, who did not approve of the apprenticeship system, the British government ended the apprenticeship system in 1838.

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