History of Slavery Collections

Find out more about the history of slavery in the IHR Wohl Library. We collect printed primary sources from all over the world.


The IHR’s holdings are mostly arranged geographically, therefore material for the history of slavery can be found throughout the collections - both in obvious and less expected places. This guide will highlight selected sources from across the IHR’s collections to demonstrate the wealth of resources available and thereby reflecting the transnational nature of the history of enslavement.

For example there are large number of sources concerning the triangular trade between Britain, West Africa, and the West Indies and American colonies, and this trade’s subsequent abolition. In addition, we have significant holdings documenting the practice in Latin America and sources which cover the trade globally and the nature of the grim trade. These range from an early anti-slavery treatise by Francisco Jose de Jaca, the 17th century Capuchin friar, to a refutation of slavery published during the early stages of the French Revolution, as well as the correspondence and personal diary of a prominent Brazilian abolitionist in the nineteenth century and the papers of Frederick Douglass, formerly enslaved, who became a leader of the abolitionist movement in the United States.

Please note, there is more information about our holdings on this topic in the United States under the heading Slavery in the United States Collection Guide.

Relevant Classmarks

Listed below are examples of classmarks under which large holdings of materials on enslavement can be found. These are mostly within the Colonial section. There are also resources within the Latin American holdings, however these are in the process of being reclassified.

Colonial Collection United States Collection Latin American Collections
  • CB.9116 Bibliography Slavery
  • CG.155 The Atlantic Slave Trade
  • CG.1551 General
  • CG.1552 Anti-Slavery & Abolitionism
  • CG.4155 British Slave Trade
  • CLAC.155 Caribbean/Bermuda: Slavery
  • UF.4155 Slavery & Abolitionism
  • UF.4355 Slavery & Abolitionism (1775-1861)
  • UF.555 Slavery & the Emancipation Proclamation
  • LA.0282 Brazil 
  • LA.4 General Latin American Colonial Period
  • LA.822 Brazil after Independence

Higlights from the Collections

Diaries and Personal Narratives

For more detailed advice on locating slavery resources within Parliamentary documents, see also the IHR’s collection guide for researching UK Parliamentary History. Some relevant examples include:

Online Resources

Selected Themes within the Collection

Further Help

Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.

You can also book a tour or training session.