Abolition’s Adolescence: Apprenticeship as ‘Liberation’ in Sierra Leone, 1808–1848

Richard Anderson* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Unbeknown to British abolitionists, the passage of the 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade instigated the forced migration and colonisation of tens of thousands of African children. Following the passage of the Act, the Royal Navy’s anti-slavery squadron diverted more than 500 intercepted slave vessels from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the abolitionist-founded colony of Sierra Leone. In total, at least 35,000 children reached Sierra Leone, part of a larger forced migration of 99,000 ‘Liberated’ Africans who disembarked at Freetown between 1808 and 1863.3 The arrival of so many young recaptives posed the humanitarian and colonial-economic question of how to resettle these children. The solution proposed by British abolitionists was telling: apprenticeship. As Cooper, Holt and Scott point out, for abolitionists ‘the transition [to free labour] had to be a directed one,’ and apprenticeship served as both a policy prescription and a metaphor for the process.4 Concepts that had underpinned and justified slavery—infantilisation, paternalism and guardianship—also framed British anti-slavery policy.5
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-793
Number of pages31
JournalEnglish Historical Review
Issue number586
Early online date15 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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