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The Royal Navy’s anti-slavery campaign in the western Indian Ocean, c. 1860-1890: race, empire and identity

Doulton, Lindsay


Lindsay Doulton


David, 1946 Richardson

Douglas J. Hamilton

John McAleer


This thesis explores the Royal Navy’s suppression of the slave trade in the western Indian Ocean between 1858 and the mid 1890s. Previous studies of this activity have offered narrative-style histories which have focused on operational matters and the diplomatic background. As such, scholars have written a naval history of slave-trade suppression. This thesis, in contrast, adopts an interdisciplinary approach, and engages with new material and new themes in order to place the anti-slavery campaign firmly in the social and cultural context of late-nineteenth-century Britain and its empire. Using sources such as letters, journals, diaries, memoirs, published and  unpublished accounts, graphical representations, and a range of representations of the campaign as portrayed in popular British culture, the aim is to shift the emphasis from the official story of slave-trade suppression. This perspective significantly broadens understanding of the social and cultural background of the campaign. Building on the work of historians such as Catherine Hall and others, the approach taken emphasises how ideas and identities were shaped through imperial connections and encounters with foreign ‘others’. An understanding of how naval officers perceived the slave trade in the western Indian Ocean region, as well as its cultures and peoples, and how this was represented, sheds new light on how the British public also viewed the region. A crucial question which underpins this thesis is how racial attitudes and anti-slavery sentiment intersected in this period of high imperialism. In recovering these attitudes, some of the main points of thinking about race, empire and British national identity during the late-Victorian period are highlighted.


Doulton, L. (2010). The Royal Navy’s anti-slavery campaign in the western Indian Ocean, c. 1860-1890: race, empire and identity. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Nov 1, 2010
Deposit Date Aug 16, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information WISE, The University of Hull


Thesis (36.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2010 Doulton, Lindsay. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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