Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Britain did more to abolish slavery than any other nation

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 4 August 2023

In March 2021 the Canadian Parliament voted unanimously to recognise August 1 as Emancipation Day commemorating the date the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 came into effect throughout the British Empire.

Emancipation is also celebrated in a slew of countries across North America, Africa and the Bahamas, with the first observance occurring in Trinidad and Tobago in 1985.

While slavery was always illegal in Australia, this is one of the single biggest leaps forward in human history. It’s time to celebrate it here as well.


It also offers an opportunity for repentance as well as celebration. It is a pivot point where the British Empire, of which Australia is an heir, starts to redeem itself.

It also ushers in the modern era of human rights and enforceable international law.

First some historical context.

We take it for granted that human rights are universal, but for most of history that has not been the case.

The most telling marker of that is there is not one inhabited continent in the world where slavery was not practiced at some time and over long periods.

The societies we most admire from antiquity, the Romans and Greeks, were both slave societies, with slave ownership in ancient Athens similar in its extent to car ownership today.


Both North and South America had slave economies before Europeans arrived, and after their arrival the Transatlantic Slave Trade powered plantations throughout the region.

China had slavery under the Qing Dynasty, and the Mughals practiced it in India. Africans enslaved Africans and some of the highest-ranking advisors in the Ottoman Empire were slaves.

The Vikings, and their descendants in Kyivan Rus, in what is now Ukraine, were prolific slavers in Eastern Europe to the extent that their predations gave rise to the ethnic term “Slavs” or slaves.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. All

This article was first published by The Weekend Australian.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

21 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Graham Young

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Graham Young
Article Tools
Comment 21 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy