The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 receives Royal Assent - On this day in history


28 August 2016
28-August-Petition-slavery-1826-24192.jpg Slave trade petition
The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 received Royal Assent on 28 August 1833

On this day in history, 1833: The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 receives Royal Assent, abolishing slavery through most of the British Empire.

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was an 1833 Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire (with the exceptions 'of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company', the 'Island of Ceylon' and the 'Island of Saint Helena'; the exceptions were eliminated in 1843).

The Act had its third reading in the House of Commons on 26 July 1833. It received the Royal Assent a month later, on 28 August, and came into force the following year, on 1 August 1834. In practical terms, only slaves below the age of six were freed in the colonies. Former slaves over the age of six were redesignated as ‘apprentices’, and their servitude was abolished in two stages: the first set of apprenticeships came to an end on 1 August 1838, while the final apprenticeships were scheduled to cease on 1 August 1840.

Content continues after advertisements

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was repealed in its entirety by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1998. The repeal has not made slavery legal again, with sections of the Slave Trade Act 1824, Slave Trade Act 1843 and Slave Trade Act 1873 continuing in force. In its place the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates into British Law Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits the holding of persons as slaves.

Find out more about the history of the transatlantic slave trade with the International Slavery Museum at

Pictured: British book illustration 1826 showing a slave and petition against slave trade. From The Black Man's Lament, or, how to make sugar by Amelia Alderson Opie. (London, 1826).