Originally posted on The Fall of Albion:
Last week, University College London publicly released a database that allows users to look up the names of people who were reimbursed by the British government for the slaves they owned after Britain banned slavery in 1833. It has touched off a debate over how to think about things in the past that we find morally repugnant in the present, as well as many other spin-off debates, such as the relationship between money and morality, past or present.
A brief historical excursus – the British state banned slavery on an incremental basis starting in 1807, when it forbade the slave trade within the British Empire. Slavery itself, or the ability of British subjects to own slaves, was banned in 1833 in the UK and took another decade or so to legally permeate the whole Empire. As part of the political deal for abolition, the state agreed to compensate slave-owners for…
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