British Entanglement with Brazilian Slavery

British Entanglement with Brazilian Slavery

Masters in Another Empire, c. 1822-1888

By Joseph Mulhern

Anthem Brazilian Studies

This book looks beyond the British Empire and the Slavery Abolition Act to focus on Brazil as the final frontier of Britain’s centuries-long involvement with transatlantic slavery.

Hardback, 250 Pages


December 2024

£80.00, $110.00

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About This Book

This book addresses a neglected aspect of the history of Britain’s centuries-long involvement with transatlantic slavery. For a half century after the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, individual Britons and British enterprises continued to own enslaved people and invest in slavery in Brazil. This study explores the material basis of this entanglement, in the context of British anti-slavery policy, to explain how the last vestiges of British slaveholding in the Americas were only extinguished by abolition in Brazil in 1888.

Based on extensive archival research on both sides of the Atlantic, this book provides the most complete survey of British slaveholding interests in Brazil. From extensive plantations and vast mining operations to the warehouses and workshops of individual merchants and artisans, slaveholding was a feature at all levels of the British community in Brazil. This book also looks beyond slaveholding in its direct form, to expose the entanglement of British merchant credit and banks with the illegal slave trade and slavery. As well as tracing the extent and diverse forms of entanglement, this book also provides analysis of the treatment of those enslaved by British masters and the strategies employed by British slaveholders to obfuscate, sanitise, and justify these practices to compatriots in anti-slavery Britain.

The book also examines how the proliferation of British slaveholding and other forms of entanglement squared with the explicitly anti-slavery foreign policy rhetoric of successive British governments during this period. This discussion pivots around a largely overlooked and little understood anti-slave trade law of 1843. An analysis of the parliamentary debates around this bill and crucially, attempts to implement its provisions in Brazil, shed light not only on practical difficulties of enforcing British law overseas, but an ambivalence both codified in legislation and embodied by British officials that ultimately facilitated the types of entanglement discussed throughout this book.


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Author Information

Joseph Mulhern is a historian of nineteenth-century Anglo-Brazilian relations and an honorary fellow of Durham University's Department of History.


Anthem Brazilian Studies

Table of Contents

Introduction; Ch. 1: The British Anti-slavery State and Slavery in Brazil; Ch. 2: ‘Breathing the miasma’: British Slaveholders in Brazil; Ch. 3: British Merchant Credit and Brazilian Slavery, c. 1830–1850; Ch. 4: Human Collateral: British Banking and Slavery, c. 1860–1888; Ch. 5: The London and Brazilian Bank's Administration of the Angélica Plantation.


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