History of Slavery in the Institute of Historical Research Library

The IHR Library has large holdings concerning the history of enslavement, in particular the triangular trade between Britain, West Africa and the West Indies/American colonies and this trade’s subsequent abolition. In addition, the IHR also has 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 the 17th century Capuchin friar, Francisco Jose de Jaca, to a refutation of slavery published during the early stages of the French Revolution, 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. The collections held in the IHR thus reflect the transnational nature of the history of enslavement. 

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

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 yet to be reclassified.

Colonial Collection

  • CB.9155 Bibliography Slavery
  • CG.155 The Atlantic Slave Trade
  • CG.1551 General
  • CG.1552 Anti-Slavery & Abolitionism
  • CG.4155 British Slave Trade
  • CG.6155 Other Powers: Slave Trade
  • CLAC.155 Caribbean/Bermuda: Slavery
  • CLAC.2155 Cuba Slavery

United States Collection

  • UF.4155 Slavery & Abolitionism
  • UF.4355 Slavery & Abolitionism (1775-1861)
  • UF.555 Slavery & the Emancipation Proclamation

Latin American Collections

  • LA.0282 Brazil 
  • LA.4 General Latin American Colonial Period
  • LA.822 Brazil after Independence

As the library concentrates its collection policy on published primary sources and research guides, sources span from the inception of the trade to its abolition and subsequent memory studies of the practice. These sources range from trade accounts, diaries, correspondence, parliamentary acts and legislation, to newspapers. Highlights of these collections and specific topics related to the history of slavery are listed below.

Please note that holdings on slavery in the United States will not be covered in full in this guide, instead please see the Slavery heading within the separate United States Collection Guide

 Abolition of Slavery Act

General Histories/Chronologies

General works on slavery

Personal Narratives/Diaries

Personal Narratives

Slave narratives sources

Correspondence: correspondence sources

Official Papers/Legal Sources:

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

Slavery in Diplomacy Source

For example: Public Statutes 3-4, 1833, ‘An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted Slaves; and for compensating the persons hitherto entitled to the Services of such Slaves.’

For example: The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, ‘An Act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters.’

For example: Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1864/1865 (abolished slavery and involuntary servitude)

Electronic Resources:

Please note that access to these resources is available onsite at the IHR, or offsite for staff and students of the IHR only.




Slavery Collections Statement of Facts

Selected Themes within the Collection


Abolition source

Memory Cultures and Debates: 

Dutch slave narratives


Latin America:

United States:

American collection sources

Other Collections/Organisations:

Also see the IHR’s collections guides on: UK Parliamentary History and United States History