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Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire in India, 1772-1843$
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Andrea Major

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781846317583

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846317255

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date: 21 November 2017

‘A Shameful and Ruinous Trade’: European Slave-trafficking and the East India Company

‘A Shameful and Ruinous Trade’: European Slave-trafficking and the East India Company

Chapter:
(p.49) 2 ‘A Shameful and Ruinous Trade’: European Slave-trafficking and the East India Company
Source:
Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire in India, 1772-1843
Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/UPO9781846317255.006

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, chartered trading companies and private entrepreneurs in Europe purchased, owned, and trafficked Indian slaves. Aside from being connected to wider networks of trade and empire around the world, European commerce in Indian slaves played an important role in the development of colonial societies in the Indian Ocean. Despite Britain's enactment of laws in 1774, 1789, and 1790 to prevent European slave-trafficking around the region, the practice continued off India's eastern seaboard. The relationship between famine, distress sales, and perpetual bondage became a recurrent theme in colonial discourse on Indian slavery. The suggestion that the EIC was an early exponent of abolitionism was challenged by revisionist scholars such as Indrani Chatterjee, who argues that the EIC actually did little to abolish Indian slavery and even resisted attempts to implement measures against it. The EIC's opposition to the slave trade in their Indian territories in the 1780s and 1790s conflicted with metropolitan British tolerance of the African trade during the period.

Keywords:   India, slavery, Europe, slave-trafficking, slave trade, Britain, East India Company, abolitionism, famine, commerce

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