Slavery Timeline 1601-1700
A Chronology of Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation
WARNING! Page Under Construction!
There is lots of useful information here, but there are a few gaps
This page will, over time, develop into a detailed timeline of the main historical, literary, and cultural events connected with British slavery, abolition, and emancipation between 1601 and 1700. It also includes references to the most significant events taking place outside of the British zone of influence. In the early seventeenth century that was most of the world, but British influence grew throughout the century so that, by 1700, we might talk of an informal British Empire. Click on a date in the list below, or scroll down the page, for information. Links are given to pages on this website only. For my sources and for further reading, look at the page Further Reading: Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation.
- 1601: The Jesuits build their first sugar mill in Brazil.
- 1604: Shakespeare's play Othello: the Moor of Venice first performed. The play features the figure of Othello, an African general, now working for Venice, who has previously suffered enslavement.
- 14 May 1607: Jamestown, the first permanent British colony in North America, is founded in modern Virginia.
- November 1611: Shakespeare's play The Tempest first performed. The play includes the figures of Caliban and Ariel, both enslaved.
- 1612: The first permanent, although non-official, British colony is founded in Bermuda.
- 1613: Lorenzo Pignoria publishes De Servis et Eorum apud Veteres Ministeriis, a history of slavery in classical Rome.
- 23 November 1614: Bermuda colony becomes a Crown possession.
- 1617: first records of slaves in Bermuda.
- 28 January 1624: Thomas Warner founds the first British Colony in St Christopher, now normally known as St Kitts.
- 14 May 1625: Captain John Powell lands on Barbados and claims the island for King James I.
- 1627: a Spanish-Peruvian Jesuit, Alonso de Sandoval, publishes Naturaleza, Policia, ... Costumbres i Ritos, Disciplina, i Catechismo Evangelico de todos Etíopes (The Nature, Policy, ... Customs and Rituals, Disciplines, and Gospel Catechism of all Ethiopians), which argues that slavery combines all the world's evils.
- 17 February 1627: Henry Powell, John Powell's brother, along with 80 British settlers and 10 African slaves, found a colony on Barbados at Jamestown (modern Holetown).
- 1632: Montserrat, originally claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain in 1493, falls under English control (although there may have been earlier small English settlements).
- 1651: First written mention of slaves being imported into Montserrat.
- May 1655: British forces under the control of Admiral Sir William Penn take control of Jamaica.
- 1657: George Fox, the Quaker leader, writes a letter 'To Friends beyond sea, that have Blacks and Indian Slaves'. This is the first letter written by a Quaker expressing some doubts about slavery in the New World.
- 1660: The newly restored King Charles II of England charters the 'Royal Adventurers into Africa', the first English state-sponsored slave trading company.
- 1671: A group of Quakers, including George Fox and William Edmundson, visit Barbados and appear to have come into conflict with the Barbadian plantocracy for suggesting that slave-owners should treat their slaves with humanity and attempt to convert them to Christianity.
- 1673: The Puritan Richard Baxter publishes antislavery material in A Christian directory, or, a summ of practical theologie, and cases of conscience (London, 1673).
- 1676: the Quaker George Fox publishes Gospel Family-Order, being a short discourse concerning the Ordering of Families, both of Whites, Blacks and Indians, which urged Quakers in America to treat their slaves humanely. The book, although published in London, appears to have been based on a sermon he delivered in Barbados in 1671.
- 1676: the Quaker Alice Curwen visits Barbados and, in a letter to the slave-holding Barbadian Friend Martha Tavernor, becomes the first Quaker to unambiguously denounce slavery.
- 1680: the Anglican Morgan Godwin publishes The Negro’s and Indians advocate, suing for their admission into the Church (London, 1680).
- 4 March 1681: Pennsylvania Colony, later to become a centre of antislavery thought, was founded by a grant to William Penn by King Charles II.
- 1684: In London, Thomas Tryon publishes two tracts on slavery: 'The Negro's Complaint of Their Hard Servitude, and the Cruelties Practised upon Them' and 'A Discourse in Way of Dialogue, between an Ethiopean or Negro-Slave and a Christian, That Was His Master in America'. These appeared as parts II and III of Friendly Advice to the Gentlemen-Planters of the East and West Indies (London, 1684).
- 18 February 1688: The German Mennonite Resolution against Slavery, the first formal protest against slavery to be made in the British American colonies, is delivered in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
- 1688: Aphra Behn publishes Oroonoko, or, the Royal Slave, the first novel to discuss the rights and wrongs of slavery.
- 1689: John Locke publishes Two Treatises of Government (London, 1689) which arguably offers a justification for slavery - although few scholars now believe that Locke's arguments were intended to be applied to the Atlantic slave trade.
- 1691: Cotton Mather’s biography of John Eliot includes antislavery sentiment: The life and death of the renown’d Mr. John Eliot, who was the first preacher of the Gospel to the Indians in America (Boston?, 1691)
- 1693: The anonymous An exhortation and caution to Friends concerning buying or keeping of Negroes (New York, 1693) becomes the first printed pamphlet explicitly denouncing slavery and the slave trade. Arising from political controversies in early Pennsylvania, it is directed towards Quakers in Philadelphia.
- 1696: Thomas Southerne in London publishes his dramatic version of Behn's Oroonoko, or, the Royal Slave.
- 23 October 1696: Philadelphia Quakers rule that Friends ‘be Careful not to Encourage the bringing in of any more Negroes, & that such that have Negroes be Careful of them, bring them to Meetings, or have Meetings with them in their Families, & Restrain them from Loose, & Lewd Living.’ This is probably the first institutional attempt to limit slave trading in America.
* This page last updated 30 October 2008 *