The movement to abolish the Transatlantic slave trade was a long and difficult struggle. Campaigners for abolition used every means they could, including sugar boycotts, meetings, petitions, publications, and circulating images showing its shameful nature, to bring the issue to people’s attention in Europe. Enslaved Africans played an essential part, having long resisted their enslavement and treatment through ‘go-slows’, revolts, intellectual and religious claims, and demonstrable capacity to retain and transmit their African or creole (mixed) cultures and languages. Escaped or freed slaves forced judges and social elites to confront the issue through court cases, publications, and performances. Propelled by much of this pressure and evidence, William Wilberforce led the long political campaign to outlaw the slave trade in Britain.
This print was one of over a thousand satires produced by the celebrated caricaturist, James Gillray, who became known as the ‘father of the political cartoon’. In the 18th century, cartoons and caricatures were a popular way of mocking the establishment and calling them to account. They would be discussed and enjoyed in shop windows, coffee houses and taverns. The arrival of the industrial printing press in the 1800s helped to spread them far and wide, through broadsides (posters), newspapers and pamphlets. This one was inspired by the resumed hostilities and ongoing rivalry between Britain and France in 1805.
William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister of Britain through the French Revolutionary and early Napoleonic Wars in the late 1700s and beginning of the 1800s. He was known as ‘the younger’, to distinguish him from his father, who was also named William Pitt and led the Government in the mid 1700s. This painting shows William Pitt the Younger addressing the House of Commons.
The continued calls for the reform of British politics and representation of marginalised sectors of society, and the establishment’s unprecedented measures to restrict and suppress these ‘radical’ ideas and demands.