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The Stanford Center for Law and History will hold its third workshop of the Quarter on Tuesday, March 1, from 12:45-2:00 PM (Pacific). Lisa Ford and Naomi Parkinson, University of New South Wales History, will present, “Commissions of Inquiry and the Remaking of British Colonial Slavery, 1822 – 1831.”
The workshop will be a hybrid event held in-person (Room 320D) and via Zoom. As a reminder, we ask that you RSVP for each workshop in advance so that we can circulate the paper, provide the Zoom link to the event, and for food ordering purposes for those of you who wish to join us in-person. Please read the paper in advance.
Current guidelines do not allow us to bring food into events. For those who attend in-person, however, lunch will be provided at 12:25PM, 20 minutes before the talk at a table in Crocker Garden to the left of Room 190 entry doors.
We also ask all those who attend in-person to comply with current Stanford event guidelines which can be found here.
To RSVP, click here. Those who confirm their attendance will receive a separate email containing the paper and link to the event.
In the early 1820s, the Liverpool Government launched an ambitious program to reform the condition of slaves across its Empire. Driven by the ‘Saints’ in Parliament, the British Colonial Office attempted to introduce uniform rights and protections for slaves in British colonies. The Trinidad Ordinance, first introduced in 1824 and eventually imposed on Britain’s crown colonies, was one medium for reform. Commissions of Inquiry, dispatched to almost every British colony from 1818-1830 and tasked with reporting back on the state of slavery, were another.
This paper examines the role Commissions of Inquiry played as instigators of and witnesses to this wider project of imperial reform. It argues that the commissioners had a marginal role in setting the terms of slavery’s amelioration, as their recommendations for law reform almost always arrived too late to shape imperial policy. However, the commissions had more impact on the ground. Focusing on the Cape, we show how the Commissioners of Eastern Inquiry inserted themselves into everyday conflicts between slaves, masters and officials, taking on the role of de facto protectors. Their investigation of slave complaints was unusual, but showcases an important function of commissions of inquiry, nevertheless. They embodied the Crown in empire, creating new pathways of complaint and surveillance that bound peripheries and center in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War.