Slavery and Abolition: A Napoleonic Blind Spot?

Wednesday 14 March 2023, 6.30pm - 8pm
HYBRID: this event will take place on campus in St Alpege Building (SAB001), and will also be streamed live via MS Teams

The words used by Napoleon in the decree he issued on his return from Elba were carefully chosen. The slave trade, both from French ports and from France’s colonies, was to be abolished; and any ship’s captain caught infringing the law would have his ship and its cargo confiscated. Napoleon hoped to send a signal to his supporters, and to a wider audience across Europe, that he was a liberal, a son of the revolution who would champion human rights and bring about the end of slavery. But did he mean it? Had he really been converted to the abolitionist cause? Or was this simply the latest twist in the longstanding pro- and anti-slavery debate that had divided opinion in France and across the Atlantic world?

Professor Alan Forrest is one of the world's leading authorities on the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon, author of many books including Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire (2002); with Philip G. Dwyer, Napoleon and his empire: Europe, 1804-1814 (2007); with Karen Hagemann and Jane Rendall , Soldiers, Citizens and Civilians: Experiences and Perceptions of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1790–1820 (2009); with Matthias Middell, The Routledge Companion to the French Revolution in World History (2015). He is one of the editors of The Cambridge History of the Napoleonic Wars (2022). In this session he will talk about one of his latest book The Death of the French Atlantic: Trade, War, and Slavery in the Age of Revolution published by Oxford University Press.

Chair: Dr Graciela Iglesias-Roger

This event is organised by the Modern History Research Centre. For more information about this event, or to receive the Teams link, email

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