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The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law$
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Jenny S. Martinez

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391626

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195391626.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 14 May 2021

Britain and the Slave Trade

Britain and the Slave Trade

The Rise of Abolitionism

(p.16) Chapter 2 Britain and the Slave Trade
The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law

Jenny S. Martinez

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the transformation of international law from justifying slave trade to ultimately suppressing it. It argues that the key player in the international abolition movement was Great Britain. At first, British merchants were early participants in the slave trade, second only to the Portuguese in terms of volume of slaves shipped. But by the late eighteenth century, attitudes toward the slave trade in Britain began to change. Historians agree that British abolitionism arose out of a combination of factors, including economic changes, Enlightenment philosophy, and religious revival movements. Throughout the Napoleonic Wars, Britain continued the practice of seizing foreign slave ships. In the years following the Napoleonic Wars, Britain triggered a sea change in the status of the slave trade under international law. Time and again, British diplomats would remind other nations that they had agreed by treaty to suppress the slave trade.

Keywords:   slave trade, slavery, Great Britain, abolition movement, British merchants, slave ships, Napoleonic Wars, Enlightenment philosophy

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