Papers of the Anti-Slavery Society

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 GB 0162 MSS Brit. Emp. s. 16-24
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      471 boxes, 2 crates, 246 volumes, 158 files

Scope and Content

Brit. Emp. s. 16

  • Various photographs and miscellaneous printed material, nd.

Brit. Emp. s. 17

  • Mounted photographs taken by Sir John Harris (the Society's Organising Secretary, 1910-1934) and his wife in theCongo and San Thom, for exhibition purposes, 1911-1912

Brit. Emp. s. 18

  • Correspondence of officers and committee members of the Committeeon Slavery and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and ofsecretaries of the National Freedmen's Aid Society, [1827-1934]
  • Correspondence of the secretaries and one treasurer of the Aborigines'Protection Society until 1909
  • Correspondence of minor or untraceable members, and anonymous fragmentsof letters, 19th-20th century
  • Official letters to officers of the several societies, nd.

Brit. Emp. s. 19

  • Correspondence, including of Travers Buxton (the Society's Secretary, 1898-1934) and Sir John Harris,1899-1940
  • Letter-books, mainly of Sir John Harris, from the Congo, 1902-1925
  • Correspondence, mainly of C.W.W. Greenidge (the Society's Secretary to 1956 and Director to 1968), 1941-1951, with letters fromGovernment departments, 1939-1953
  • Letters received by officers of the Society, 1925-1950
  • Carbon copies of letters sent by the Society, 1940-[1947]
  • Letters received by officers of the Society, and carbon copies of letterssent by them, 1950-1961
  • Minutes, correspondence, journals, and financial and other papersrelating to the running of the Society, 1918-1961
  • Chairmen's correspondence, 1944-1967
  • Correspondence, articles, memoranda, reviews and broadcasts byC.W.W. Greenidge, with items of personal interest, 1957-1962
  • Correspondence with Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Committee members,1961-1968
  • General correspondence of the Secretary and his assistants, 1955-1962
  • Correspondence, 1961-1972
  • Letters exchanged with correspondents in the U.S.A., [1966-1968]
  • Correspondence with and representations to the Foreign and ColonialOffices, 1963-1970
  • Papers relating to the management of the Society, [1902-1974], includingrecords of annual meetings, 1955-1971, papers concerning publicity, publicrelations and membership, 1959-1972, financial papers, [1902-1974];illustrations for Uncle Tom's Cabin by HarrietBeecher-Stowe (Boston, John P. Jewett&Company, 1852)
  • Letters received and sent by officers of the Society, [1944-1977]
  • Secretary's miscellaneous correspondence, draft letters, memoranda and notes, with material used in meetings and press cuttings, 1967-1977
  • Papers relating to the management of the Society, 1963-1965
  • Correspondence concerning advertisements and notices placed by the Society in journals and other publications, 1963-1980
  • Financial papers, including papers relating to premises rented by the Society, 19th-20th century
  • Papers relating to newspaper articles and letters, books and other publications containing material on slavery, [1962-1979]

Brit. Emp. s. 20

  • Letters received by the Secretary and Trustees of the Mico Charity fromschools that the Charity had established in the West Indies, 1835-1842
  • Minutes of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and itspredecessors, 1823-1935
  • Minutes of the General Convention for Anti-Slavery, 1840
  • Memorials and petitions, 1839-1853
  • Out-letters of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1869-1899
  • Account books, cash books and ledgers of the British and ForeignAnti-Slavery Society, 1846-1850, 1866-1868, 1898-1909, the Aborigines'Protection Society, 1907, and the combined Society, 1909-1941
  • Rough minutes of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, a registerof the Society's committee, a note book belonging to Frederick Tuckett, oneof the Aborigines' Protection Society's committee members from 1865, and minutesof Miss Catherine Impey's Society for the Recognition of the Brotherhood ofMan in Somerset
  • Letters of the trustees of the Mico Charity, c1839-1842
  • Minutes, 1935-1965
  • Account books and ledgers, 1937-1973

Brit. Emp. s. 21

  • Receipt files, 1920-1941, counterfoil books, 1925-1935, 1938-1941,paying-in books, 1925-1940, cheque books and balance sheets, 1924-1940, andmiscellaneous cheques, 19th century
  • Receipt counterfoil books, 1964-1973

Brit. Emp. s. 22

  • 19th-20th century papers arranged by territory and bysubject

Brit. Emp. s. 23

  • Various papers of the Committee for the Welfare of Africans in Europe,including out-letters, 1919-1941, and financial accounts and reports,1921-1944

Brit. Emp. s. 24

  • Press cuttings, printed papers and photographs, [1881]-1978

Uncatalogued papers, 1972-1981

  • Files of topics of special interest, arranged by territory
  • Proceedings, etc. of annual general meetings
  • Articles
  • Regional correspondence
  • Papers relating to forms of slavery
  • Chairmen's papers
  • Correspondence of General Committee, Presidents and Vice-Presidents
  • Papers of foundations and charitable trusts
  • General enquiries
  • Directories and records related to advertising
  • Cash books
  • Papers relating to connections with the Foreign Office
  • Publications
  • Appeals
  • Records relating to fund-raising
  • Records of meetings, seminars and conferences
  • Historical files relating to abolitionist families
  • Records of exhibitions and celebrations
  • Membership records
  • Records relating to Parliament
  • Papers of non-governmental organisations concerning the Congo
  • Records relating to the Society's offices
  • Records relating to overseas societies
  • Records relating to specific projects
  • Anti-Slavery International research reports
  • Administrative papers, from c1960
  • Papers relating to non-governmental organizations
  • Submissions made to United Nations bodies

The Anti-Slavery Society Pictorial Collection

  • Glass negatives, lantern slides and printing blocks, various related scenes, persons and locations

Administrative / Biographical History

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' ProtectionSociety was formed in 1909 through the amalgamation of the two bodies thatform its name.

The roots of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Societygo back to the 18th century, and the beginnings of a largely Quaker-inspiredmovement to abolish the slave trade. However, even after the abolition ofthe trade in Britain in 1807, and the emancipation of slaves in the coloniesin 1834, an alternative form of slavery, the 'apprenticeship system' continueduntil 1838 in the West Indies. Against this background, in 1823, a number of menled by William Wilberforce and Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton began to meetregularly in London to discuss the slave trade and slavery in Britishpossessions. The resulting organisation, the Committee on Slavery, laterchanged its name to The Society for the Amelioration and Gradual Abolition ofSlavery, and in 1835 to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society,committed to ending slavery worldwide. During the 19th century, the Societycampaigned on a number of related issues, including the trade in slave-cultivatedsugar from Brazil and Cuba, and the East African slave trade (resulting from itsclose contacts with Dr. Livingstone). In the 1890s its mandatebegan to include the ill treatment of indigenous peoples, leading to itseventual merger with the Aborigines' Protection Society

The Aborigines'Protection Society was founded in 1837 by Dr. Thomas Hodgkin and others through aParliamentary select committee set up in 1835 to investigate means of ensuring justice, spreadingcivilization, 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 benevolentindividuals 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 centuryit continued to lobby in the same geographical areas, as well as against encroachments on the NorthAmerican Indians, the traffic in Coolie and Polynesian labour, and the sale of liquor to natives.

After World War One the newly amalgamated British and Foreign Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' ProtectionSocietyattempted to work with the League of Nations for the respecting of human rightsas part of international law. This work culminated in 1956 with theSupplementary Convention on the Abolition ofSlavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery,which listed and defined all slave-related practices. In 1975 it campaigned forthe setting up of a panel of experts in the United Nations, later knownas the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. In 1990 the Societychanged its name to Anti-Slavery International. Its main current areas ofinterest include debt bondage, the trafficking of human beings and theworst forms of child labour

In terms of related organisations relevant to thiscollection, the Mico Charity administered funds for the education of negroes (though thelegacy was not used for this purpose until after the establishment of theapprenticeship system in the West Indies and the subsequent setting up ofschools for apprentices and their children); the National Freedmen's Aid Society was in close communicationwith 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 labourcontingents in France and to care for native fighting forces.


The papers were initially arranged in 9 separate collections (Brit. Emp. s. 16-24); each subsequent deposit was divided and accrued to the same initial collections as necessary.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no. 2 in Manuscript Collections of Africanain Rhodes House Library Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford,Bodleian Library, 1968). Handlists are also available in the library reading room.

Alternative Form Available

Sections of the above papers (refs. Brit. Emp. s. 18, 20, 22) have been microfilmed. Further microfilm of papers held at the library, including correspondence of the Secretaries of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 19th century, letters to the Mico Charity Trustees, 1835-1842, and minutes and correspondence of the Secretaries of the Aborigines' Protection Society, 19th century, is available to purchase from World Microfilms Publications.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Custodial History

The bulk of the records of the Aborigines' Protection Society appear to have been destroyed before amalgamation with the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society took place.


Accruals (including unspecified donations), where recorded, have taken place as follows

  • Volume of Grenada letters, [September] 1960
  • Papers relating to the Welfare of Africans in Europe Committee, [October] 1982
  • Unspecified transcriptions, [November] 1982
  • Further papers, 21st August 1985
  • Volume of Aborigines' Protection Society minutes c1849-1879, March 1987

Related Material

  • Anti-Slavery Society papers relating to America, 1839-1868 (microfilm) (ref. Micr. U.S.A. 187-188)
  • Papers of Lady Kathleen Harvey Simon, comprising correspondence, notebooks, newspaper cuttings and miscellaneous papers relating to slavery, 1927-1951 (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 25)
  • Album of pamphlets, cuttings, drawings, poems, etc. on slavery, c1824-1828 (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 6)
  • Papers of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Bart., 1804-1847 (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 444)
  • Papers of Thomas Clarkson, 1825-1828 (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 495)
  • Diary of Thomas Clarkson's tour through Wales on behalf of the Anti-Slavery Society, 1824 (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. r. 16)
  • Letters to Thomas Clarkson relating to the slave trade, 1798-1829 (facsimiles) (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. r. 1)
  • Letters to Thomas Clarkson on slavery and the slave trade, 1789, 1817 (facsimiles) (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. r. 1)
  • Typed transcripts of letters concerning the anti-slavery movement in America, 1832-1846 (ref. MSS. Amer. r. 1)

The library holds volumes of The colonial intelligencer; or Aborigines' friend, comprising the transactions of the Aborigines' Protection Society... (London, s.d., 1847-1909) (ref. 100.221 r. 43).

The Society's library at 180, Brixton Road, London holds 3000 volumes relating to various aspects of the slave trade.

Various anti-slavery records are held at the John Rylands Library and are also available on microfilm from World Microfilms Publications.


Divided hearts. Britain and the American Civil War by R.J.M. Blackett (Great Britain; Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State University Press, c2001); Beating against the barriers. biographical essays in nineteenth-century Afro-American history by R.J.M. Blackett (Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State University Press, 1986); Black prophets of justice. activist clergy before the Civil War by David E. Swift (London; Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana State University Press, c1989); Sol Plaatje. selected writings ed. Brian Willan (Athens, Ohio, Ohio University Press, 1997, c1996).