After abolition

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Do you know what these objects are, and what the connection was between them?

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Tewkesbury medal, 1834, Bolton Museum and Archive Service

See this object at Bolton Museum and Archive Service

This item may not always be on display, please check with the venue before visiting

This medal was given to school children in Tewkesbury in 1834 to celebrate the abolition of slavery. One side shows a freed enslaved African standing beneath radiant beams of light with his arms raised to heaven. He is standing on a broken whip with broken chains around him.

Around the edge of the medal words taken from the Bible say: ‘This is the Lord's doing; It is marvellous in our eyes’. The reverse says: ‘In commemoration of the extinction of colonial slavery throughout the British Dominions in the reign of William the IV Augt 1 1834’.

In 1807 the British parliament ended the transatlantic slave trade, but it was still legal to own enslaved workers. The abolition campaign continued in Britain and there were many rebellions by enslaved people in Caribbean colonies.

The Act that ended slavery in British colonies was finally passed on 23 August 1833. On 1 August 1834, all those enslaved in the British Empire were finally set free, but an ‘apprenticeship’ system kept many working in the same conditions until 1838.

Different countries abolished slavery at different times. Denmark abolished the trade in 1803, France in 1848 and Portugal in 1869. Slavery only ended in America in 1865.

The British celebrated the abolition of slavery. They justified their actions on moral and religious grounds, and suggested they were superior to other countries that still had slavery. In fact, there were economic reasons why slavery was becoming less profitable and the British seemed to forget they were once the most active slave traders in the world.

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An interactive video drama on slavery and abolition

This Accursed Thing

James Watkins