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Abolition of slavery timeline

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Title: Abolition of slavery timeline  
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Abolition of slavery timeline

The abolition of slavery occurred at different times in different countries, and sometimes occurred sequentially in more than one stage: for example, as abolition of the trade in slaves in a specific country, and then as abolition of slavery throughout empires. Each step was usually the result of a separate law or action. This timeline shows abolition laws or actions listed chronologically.

Ancient times

  • 3rd century BC: Ashoka abolishes slave trade and encourages people to treat slaves well but does not abolish slavery itself in the Maurya Empire, covering the majority of India, which was under his rule.[1]
  • 221-206 BC: The Qin Dynasty's measures to eliminate the landowning aristocracy include the abolition of slavery and the establishment of a free peasantry who owed taxes and labor to the state. They also abolished primogeniture and discouraged serfdom.[2] The dynasty was overthrown in 206 BC and many of its laws were overturned.
  • 17: Wang Mang, first and only emperor of the Xin Dynasty, usurped the Chinese throne and instituted a series of sweeping reforms, including the abolition of slavery and radical land reform. After his assassination in 23 C.E., slavery was reinstituted.[3][4]

Early timeline

Many of these changes were reversed in practice over the succeeding centuries.

  • 960: Doge of Venice Pietro IV Candiano reconvened the popular assembly and had it approve of a law prohibiting the slave trade.
  • 1102: Trade in slaves and serfdom condemned by the church in London: Council of London (1102).
  • 1117: Slavery abolished in Iceland.
  • 1200: Slavery virtually disappears in Japan; it was never widespread and mostly involved captives taken in civil wars.[5]
  • 1214: The Statute of the Town of Korčula (today in Croatia) abolishes slavery.[6]
  • 1215: Magna Carta signed. Clause 30, commonly known as Habeas Corpus, would form the basis of a law against slavery in English common law.
  • ~1220: The Sachsenspiegel, the most influential German code of law from the Middle Ages, condemns slavery as a violation of God's likeness to man.[7]
  • 1256: The Liber Paradisus is promulgated. The Comune di Bologna abolishes slavery and serfdom and releases all the serfs in its territories.
  • 1274: Landslov (Land's Law) in Norway mentions only former slaves, which indicates that slavery was abolished in Norway
  • 1315: Louis X, king of France, publishes a decree proclaiming that "France signifies freedom" and that any slave setting foot on the French ground should be freed.[8]
  • 1335: Sweden (including Finland at the time) makes slavery illegal. An abolition of slaves setting foot on Swedish ground does not occur until 1813.[9] (In the 18th and 19th Centuries, slavery would be practiced in the Swedish ruled Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy.)
  • 1368: China's Hongwu Emperor establishes the Ming dynasty and would abolish all forms of slavery.[3] However, slavery continued in the Ming dynasty. Later Ming rulers, as a way of limiting slavery in the absence of a prohibition, passed a decree that limited the number of slaves that could be held per household and extracted a severe tax from slave owners.[10]
  • 1416: Republic of Ragusa (modern day Dubrovnik, Croatia) abolished slavery and slave trading
  • 1435: Papal Encyclical – Sicut Dudum – of Pope Eugene IV banning enslavement on pain of excommunication.

Modern timeline




  • 1800: Slave trade outlawed importation into United States.
  • 1802: The First Consul Napoleon re-introduces slavery in French colonies growing sugarcane.[19]
  • 1802: Ohio writes a state constitution that abolishes slavery.
  • 1803: Denmark–Norway: abolition of transatlantic slave trade takes effect 1 January 1803.
  • 1804: New Jersey begins a gradual abolition of slavery, freeing future children of slaves.[30] Those born prior to the Act remain enslaved for life. The process later becomes complete with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865.
  • 1804: Haiti declares independence and abolishes slavery.[22]
  • 1805: Great Britain: A bill for abolition passes in House of Commons but is rejected in the House of Lords.
  • 1806: In a message to Congress, US President Thomas Jefferson calls for criminalizing the international slave trade, asking Congress to "withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights … which the morality, the reputation, and the best of our country have long been eager to proscribe."
  • 1807, 2 March: The US makes international slave trade a felony in Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves; this act takes effect on 1 January 1808.[37]
  • 1807, 25 March: Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolishes slave trading in British Empire. Captains fined £120 per slave transported.
  • 1807, 22 July: The constitution of the Duchy of Warsaw abolishes serfdom.
  • 1807: The British begin patrols of African coast to arrest slaving vessels. The West Africa Squadron (Royal Navy) is established to suppress slave trading; by 1865, nearly 150,000 people freed by anti-slavery operations.[38]
  • 1807: Abolition of serfdom in Prussia through the Stein-Hardenberg Reforms.
  • 1807: In the US Northwest Territory (present-day Michigan), Territorial Justice Augustus Woodward denies the return of two slaves owned by a man in Windsor, Upper Canada (present day Ontario). Woodward declares that any man "coming into this Territory is by law of the land a freeman."[39]
  • 1810: In Mexico, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declares slavery abolished. In the following years, during the Mexican War of Independence, gradually comprehensive steps will end slavery in the new country.
  • 1811: Slave trading made a felony in the British Empire, punishable by transportation for British subjects and foreigners.
  • 1811: Spain abolishes slavery at home and in all colonies except Cuba,[19] Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo.
  • 1811: The First National Congress of Chile approves a proposal drafted by Manuel de Salas that declares the Freedom of wombs, which sets free the sons of slaves born on Chilean territory, no matter the conditions of the parents; it prohibited the slave trade and recognized as freedmen those who, passing in transit through Chilean territory, stayed there for six months.
  • 1813: Mexico abolishes slavery in the documents Sentimientos de la Nación, by insurgent leader José María Morelos y Pavón.
  • 1813: In Argentina, the Law of Wombs was passed on 2 February, by the Assembly of Year XIII. The law stated that those born after 31 January 1813 would be granted freedom when contracting matrimony, or on their 16th birthday for women and 20th for men, and upon their manumission would be given land and tools to work it.
  • 1814: Uruguay, before its independence, declares all those born of slaves in their territories are free from that day forward.
  • 1814: The Netherlands outlaws slave trade.
  • 1815: British pay Portugal £750,000 to cease their trade north of the Equator.[40]
  • 1815: At the Congress of Vienna, eight victorious powers declared their opposition to slavery.
  • 1816: Serfdom abolished in the Governorate of Estonia of the Russian Empire.
  • 1816, 16 July: Simon Bolivar declares the emancipation of all the slaves in the Province of Venezuela.
  • 1817: Serfdom abolished in the Governorate of Courland of the Russian Empire.
  • 1817: Spain paid £400,000 by British to cease trade to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo.[40]
  • 1817: New York State sets a date of 4 July 1827 to free all its ex-slaves from indenture.[41]
  • 1818: Treaty between Britain and Spain to abolish slave trade.[42]
  • 1818: Treaty between Britain and Portugal to abolish slave trade.[42]
  • 1818: France abolishes slave trading.
  • 1818: Treaty between Britain and the Netherlands taking additional measures to enforce the 1814 ban on slave trading.[42]
  • 1819: Serfdom abolished in the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empire.
  • 1819: Upper Canada: Attorney-General John Robinson declares all black residents of Canada free.
  • 1820: Mexico formally abolishes slavery with the Plan of Iguala, proposed by Agustín de Iturbide and ratified the following year by him and the Viceroy, Juan O'Donojú.
  • 1820: Compromise of 1820 in US prohibits slavery north of a line (36°30′).
  • 1820: In Polly v. Lasselle, Indiana supreme court orders almost all slaves in the state to be freed.
  • 1821: Gran Colombia (Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama) declares free the sons and daughters born to slave mothers, sets up program for compensated emancipation[43]
  • 1822: Liberia founded by American Colonization Society (USA) as a colony for emancipated slaves.
  • 1822: Greece abolishes slavery.
  • 1823: Chile abolishes slavery.[22]
  • 1823: Anti-Slavery Society founded in Britain.
  • 1824: Mexico's new constitution (1824 Constitution of Mexico) effectively frees existing slaves.
  • 1824: The Federal Republic of Central America abolishes slavery.
  • 1825: Uruguay declares independence from Brazil and prohibits the traffic of slaves from foreign countries.
Illustration from the book: The Black Man's Lament, Or, How to Make Sugar by Amelia Opie. (London, 1826)
  • 1827: Treaty between Britain and Sweden to abolish slave trade.[42]
  • 1827: New York State abolishes slavery. Children born between 1799 and 1827 are indentured until age 25 (females) or age 28 (males).[44]
  • 1829: Last slaves are freed in Mexico.[22]
  • 1830: Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante orders the abolition of slavery to be implemented also in Mexican Texas. To circumvent the law, Anglo colonists convert their slaves into "indentured servants for life".[45]
  • 1830: The first Constitution of Uruguay declares the abolition of slavery.
  • 1831: Bolivia abolishes slavery.[22]
  • 1831: Brazil adopts the Law of 7 November 1831, declaring the maritime slave trade abolished, prohibiting any form of importation of slaves, and granting freedom to slaves should they be illegally imported into Brazil. In spite of its adoption, the law was seldom enforced prior to 1850, when Brazil, under British pressure, adopted additional legislation to criminalize the importation of slaves.
  • 1834: The British Slavery Abolition Act comes into force, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire. Legally frees 700,000 in West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, and 40,000 in South Africa. The exceptions, territories controlled by the East India Company and Ceylon, were liberated in 1843 when they became part of the British Empire.[46]
  • 1835: Serbia abolishes slavery.[47] Although formally outlawed in 1835, slavery never existed in Serbia.
  • 1835: Treaty between Britain and France to abolish slave trade.[42]
  • 1835: Treaty between Britain and Denmark to abolish slave trade.[42]
  • 1836: Portugal abolishes transatlantic slave trade.
  • 1836: Republic of Texas is established. Slavery is made legal again.
  • 1836, December: Viscount Sá da Bandeira, prime minister, prohibits the import and export of slaves from the Portuguese colonies south of the Equator.
  • 1838, 1 August: Enslaved men, women, and children in the British Empire finally became fully free after a period of forced apprenticeship following the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.
  • 1839: British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society founded as a successor to the Anti-Slavery Society. (The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society exists today as Anti-Slavery International.)
  • 1839: Indian indenture system made illegal (reversed in 1842).
  • 1840: Treaty between Britain and Venezuela to abolish slave trade;[42] the first World Anti-Slavery Convention meets in London.
  • 1841: Quintuple Treaty is signed; Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria agree to suppress slave trade.[22]
  • 1842: Treaty between Britain and Portugal to extend the enforcement of the ban on slave trade to Portuguese ships sailing south of the Equator.
  • 1843: East India Company becomes increasingly controlled by Britain and abolishes slavery in India by the Indian Slavery Act V. of 1843.
  • 1843: Treaty between Britain and Uruguay to suppress slave trade.[42]
  • 1843: Treaty between Britain and Mexico to suppress slave trade.[42]
  • 1843: Treaty between Britain and Chile to suppress slave trade.[42]
  • 1843: Treaty between Britain and Bolivia to abolish slave trade.[42]
  • 1845: 36 British Royal Navy ships are assigned to the Anti-Slavery Squadron, making it one of the largest fleets in the world.
  • 1846: Persuaded by Britain, the Bey of Tunisia outlawed the slave trade; the policy was reversed temporarily by his successor.[48]
  • 1847: Under British pressure, the Ottoman Empire abolishes slave trade from Africa.[49]
  • 1847: The last slaves in the Swedish colony Saint Barthelemy are freed.[50]
  • 1847: Slavery is abolished in Pennsylvania, thus freeing the last remaining slaves, those born before 1780 (fewer than 100 in 1840 Census).[51]
  • 1848: Slavery abolished in all French and Danish colonies.[22][50]
  • 1848: France founds Gabon for settlement of emancipated slaves.
  • 1848: Treaty between Britain and Muscat to suppress slave trade.[42]
  • 1849: Treaty between Britain and Persian Gulf states to suppress slave trade.[42]


  • 1850: In the United States, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 requires the return of escaped slaves to their owners.
  • 1850: Brazil, under British pressure, adopts the Eusébio de Queiróz Act (Law 581 of 4 September 1850), criminalizing the maritime slave trade as piracy, and imposing other criminal sanctions on the importation of slaves (already prohibited in law since 1831).
  • 1851: New Granada (Colombia) abolishes slavery.[43]
  • 1852: The Hawaiian Kingdom abolishes kauwa system of serfdom.[52]
  • 1853: Argentina abolishes slavery when promulgating the 1853 Constitution.[53]
  • 1854: Peru abolishes slavery.[22]
  • 1854: Venezuela abolishes slavery.[22][43]
  • 1855: Moldavia partially abolishes slavery.[54]
  • 1856: Wallachia partially abolishes slavery.[54]
  • 1860: Indenture system abolished within British-occupied India.
  • 1861: Russia frees its serfs in the Emancipation reform of 1861.[55]
  • 1862: Treaty between United States and Britain for the suppression of the slave trade (African Slave Trade Treaty Act).[42]
  • 1862: Cuba abolishes slave trade.[22]
  • 1863: Slavery abolished in Dutch colonies Surinam (33,000 freed) and the Antilles (12,000 freed).[56]
  • 1863: In the United States, Abraham Lincoln issues the presidential order the Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves in Confederate-controlled areas to be freed. Most slaves in "border states" are freed by state action; separate law freed the slaves in Washington, D.C.
  • 1865, December: US abolishes slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; about 40,000 remaining slaves are affected.[57]
  • 1866: Slavery abolished in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).[58]
  • 1869, February, 27th: Portugal: King Louis I signs a decree of the government, chaired by the Marquis Sá da Bandeira, abolishing slavery in all Portuguese territories. Accordingly, all slaves in the Portuguese colonies in Africa were set free, resulting in the total termination of slavery across the Portuguese Empire.
  • 1871: Brazil: Rio Branco Law (Law of Free Birth) declares free the sons and daughters born to slave mothers after 28 September 1871.[59]
  • 1873: Slavery abolished in the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico.
  • 1873: Treaty between Britain and Zanzibar and Madagascar to suppress slave trade.[42]
  • 1874: Britain abolishes slavery in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), following its annexation in 1874.[60]
  • 1882: Ottoman firman abolishes all forms of slavery, white or black.[61]
  • 1885: Brazil passes Sexagenarians Law (Saraiva-Cotegipe Act), freeing all slaves over the age of 60, and creating other measures for the gradual abolition of slavery, such as a Manumissions Fund administered by the State.
  • 1886: Slavery abolished in Cuba.[22]
  • 1888, 13 May: Brazil enacts the Golden Law, decreeing the total abolition of slavery with immediate effect, without indemnities to slaveowners, but also without providing for any aid to newly freed former slaves.[62]
  • 1890: Brussels Conference Act – a collection of anti-slavery measures to put an end to the slave trade on land and sea, especially in the Congo Basin, the Ottoman Empire, and the East African coast.
  • 1894: Korea officially abolishes slavery, but it survives in practice until 1930.[63]
  • 1896: France abolishes slavery in its then colony of Madagascar.
  • 1897: Zanzibar abolishes slavery[64] following its becoming a British protectorate.
  • 1899: France abolishes slavery in Ndzuwani.


  • 1902: The Ethiopian Empire abolishes slavery (though it was not legally and officially abolished by Emperor Haile Selassie until 1942).
  • 1906: China formally abolishes slavery effective 31 January 1910, when all adult slaves were converted into hired labourers and the young were freed upon reaching age 25.[18]
  • 1912: Siam (Thailand) formally abolishes all slavery. The act of selling a person into slavery was abolished in 1897, but slavery itself was not outlawed at that time.[65]
  • 1921: Nepal abolishes slavery.[66][67]
  • 1922: Morocco abolishes slavery.[68]
  • 1923: Afghanistan abolishes slavery.[69]
  • 1924: Iraq abolishes slavery.
  • 1924: League of Nations appoints a Temporary Slavery Commission.
  • 1926, 25 September: Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery bound all signatories to end slavery.
  • 1928: Iran abolishes slavery.[70]
  • 1928: Domestic slavery practised by local African elites abolished in Sierra Leone.[71] Though established as a place for freed slaves, a study found practices of domestic slavery still widespread in rural areas in the 1970s.
  • 1935: Italian General Emilio De Bono proclaims slavery to be abolished in the Ethiopian Empire.[72]
  • 1936: Britain abolishes slavery in Northern Nigeria.[73]
  • 1946: Fritz Sauckel, procurer of slave labor for Nazi Germany, is convicted at the Nuremberg trials and executed as a war criminal.
  • 1948: UN Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights bans slavery globally.[74]
  • 1952: Qatar abolishes slavery.
  • 1958: Bhutan abolishes slavery.
  • 1959: Slavery in Tibet is abolished by China after the Dalai Lama flees.
  • 1960: Niger abolishes slavery (though it was not made illegal until 2003).[75]
  • 1962: Saudi Arabia abolishes slavery.
  • 1962: Yemen abolishes slavery.
  • 1964: The United Arab Emirates abolishes slavery.
  • 1970: Oman abolishes slavery.
  • 1981: Mauritania abolishes slavery.[76][77][78]
  • 2003: Niger makes slavery a crime.[75]
  • 2007: Mauritania makes slavery a crime.[79]
  • 2014: For the first time in history major Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders, met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery; the declaration they signed calls for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020.[80] The signatories were: Pope Francis, Her Holiness Mātā Amṛtānandamayī (also known as Amma), Venerable Bhikkhuni Thich Nu Chân Không (representing Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh), The Most Ven. Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Chief High Priest of Malaysia, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka, Rabbi Dr. David Rosen, Dr. Abbas Abdalla Abbas Soliman, Undersecretary of State of Al Azhar Alsharif (representing Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar), Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, Sheikh Naziyah Razzaq Jaafar, Special advisor of Grand Ayatollah (representing Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi), Sheikh Omar Abboud, Most Revd and Right Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (representing His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.)[81]

Although slavery is now de jure illegal in all countries, de facto practices akin to it continue today in many places throughout the world.[82][83][84][85]

See also


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  2. ^ The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History. Cengage Learning. 2009. p. 165.  
  3. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2011. p. 155.  
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Google Books. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  5. ^ Finkelman & Miller (1998) 2: 445–6
  6. ^ "Statute of Korcula from 1214 - Large Print". Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
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  8. ^ Miller, Christopher L. The French Atlantic triangle: literature and culture of the slave trade. Google Books. p. 20. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  9. ^ John Roach; Jürgen Thomaneck (1985). Police and public order in Europe. Taylor & Francis. p. 256.  
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  13. ^ Lewis, James Bryant. (2003). , p. 31Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan-32.
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  19. ^ a b c Hobhouse, Henry. Seeds of Change: Six Plants That Transformed Mankind, 2005. Page 111.
  20. ^ Heward, Edmund (1979). Lord Mansfield: A Biography of William Murray 1st Earl of Mansfield 1705–1793 Lord Chief Justice for 32 years. p.141. Chichester: Barry Rose (publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-85992-163-8
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  51. ^ 1840 US Census, Pennsylvania
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  54. ^ a b Mihail Kogălniceanu, Dezrobirea ţiganilor, ştergerea privilegiilor boiereşti, emanciparea ţăranilor, 1891. (these dates) also decisive for privately owned gypsies, still remaining enslaved
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  64. ^ "Swahili Coast". National Geographic. 2002-10-17. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
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  73. ^ "The End of Slavery". BBC. Retrieved 2013-08-28. 
  74. ^ "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". United Nations. 10 December 1948. Retrieved 13 December 2007. Adopted and proclaimed by  
  75. ^ a b Anti-Slavery International (28 October 2008). "Niger slavery: Background".  
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Further reading

  • Bales, Kevin. "Disposable People" (University of California Press, 2012)
  • Campbell, Gwyn. The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia (Frank Cass, 2004)
  • Drescher, Seymour. Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Finkelman, Paul, and Joseph Miller, eds. Macmillan Encyclopedia of World Slavery (2 vol 1998)
  • Gordon, M. Slavery in the Arab World (1989)
  • Hinks, Peter, and John McKivigan, eds. Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition (2 vol. 2007) 795pp; ISBN 978-0-313-33142-8
  • Lovejoy, Paul. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge UP, 1983)
  • Morgan, Kenneth. Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America (2008)
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. The Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery (1997)
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World (2007)

External links

  • Timeline - What happened before 1807? The Royal Naval Museum
  • Timeline - What happened after 1807? The Royal Naval Museum
  • Slavery and Abolition
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