Henry Dundas: a ‘great delayer’ of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade

Mullen, S. (2021) Henry Dundas: a ‘great delayer’ of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Scottish Historical Review, 100(2), pp. 218-248. (doi: 10.3366/shr.2021.0516)

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Abstract

Henry Dundas, first viscount Melville (1742–1811), lord advocate in Scotland, MP for Edinburgh and Midlothian, first lord of the admiralty, home secretary and the first secretary of state for war, was one of the most powerful politicians in the eighteenth-century British parliament. His involvement in the gradual abolition of the slave trade after 1792 was amongst the most controversial episodes of his career. His role has attracted much interest in the last few years, although there are two irreconcilable schools of thought amongst historians. This article reassesses Dundas's role in the gradual abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. His contributions in the houses of parliament between 1791 and 1807 are examined and situated in the appropriate imperial context. Memoirs and published pamphlets reveal how contemporaries viewed Dundas's activities and motives at the time and since. His parliamentary activities are compared with new insights from his personal correspondence as well as public and private communications from West India societies, merchants and planters. By overlaying parliamentary events with commercial networks, Henry Dundas's collaboration with the West India interest is revealed, and how this operated and was perceived at the time. This article—the first detailed study of its type—thus illuminates Henry Dundas's role as a great delayer of the abolition of the slave trade.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Research for this article was supported by the Annie Dunlop Endowment (2018-19) at the University of Glasgow.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mullen, Dr Stephen
Authors: Mullen, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Scottish Historical Review
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
ISSN:0036-9241
ISSN (Online):1750-0222
Published Online:01 September 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Scottish Historical Review Trust
First Published:First published in Scottish Historical Review 100(2):218-248
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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