Mapping out London’s shame – the slave owners 

Thursday 27 August 2020

The Layers of London website, which peels back the capital’s story with maps and local data to enrich public understanding of the past, has released a new map revealing the slave owners of 19th-century London

The information is based on those awarded compensation by the Slave Compensation Commission between 1834 and 1845. The commission, a government body set up to compensate slave owners in Britain for the loss of their ‘property’ (the enslaved) paid out £20 million in 1834, equivalent to 40% of government expenditure in that year. It was a prerequisite for the abolition of slavery.

This new map is part of a nationwide database compiled by the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership. The Centre was established at University College London with the generous support of the Hutchins Center at Harvard.

The Layers of London project is based at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. It’s a huge multi-partner project with an ambitious aim: to map London’s history over the past 500 years. As well as browsing, members of the public can view records contributed by Londoners from all walks of life or even add their own stories and histories.

Welcoming this latest Layers development, Matthew Smith, director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, commented: ‘The shadows of the history of slavery follow us all and are especially relevant today as we think of social inequalities in the light of Covid-19. The present moment demands that we maintain active and informed dialogue on the roots of that history, which our centre does through research and public engagement.’

Professor Matthew Davies, director of the Layers of London project says ’Layers of London provides the digital tools to bring together and share diverse community histories, and we are keen for these to inform a better future. The slave ownership map is a really important new addition.’ 

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For further information, please contact Seif El Rashidi, seif.elrashidi@sas.ac.uk / +44 (0) 20 7862 8705

Notes for editors