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Remembering 1807: Lessons from the Archives

Oldfield, John; Wills, Mary


John Oldfield

Mary Wills


This article offers new perspectives on the commemorative events organized around the UK in 2007 to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807). Drawing from the resources contained in Remembering 1807, a digital archive of information about nearly 350 events and exhibitions held in 2007, it offers a closer look at the variety, diversity and creativity of projects organized by heritage organizations and community groups from all parts of the UK. While agreeing that much of the national narrative focused on the celebratory aspects of Britain’s role in abolition, we argue that many other projects gave voice to a wide range of concerns relating to transatlantic slavery, challenging participants to rethink the boundaries of slavery and abolition in Britain’s public history. This included highlighting the role of transatlantic slavery in hitherto unexplored areas of British history, in local stories and in broader narratives of Britain’s commercial, military, and imperial expansion. Other projects drew attention to the lasting legacies of slavery, emphasized stories of resistance or celebrated the Black presence in Britain. Recognizing these other perspectives within the commemorative impulse in 2007 can help us to (re)orientate future memory work around Britain’s role in transatlantic slavery.


Oldfield, J., & Wills, M. (2020). Remembering 1807: Lessons from the Archives. History workshop journal : HWJ, Article dbaa016.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 21, 2020
Online Publication Date Oct 16, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 6, 2020
Journal History Workshop Journal
Print ISSN 1363-3554
Electronic ISSN 1477-4569
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number dbaa016
Keywords Slavery; 2007; Memory
Public URL


Published article (334 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© The authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of History Workshop Journal. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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