Somersett’s Case

The Abolition Act of 1833 may have abolished slavery in the British Empire, but the first step toward abolition was taken 60 years earlier in 1772, in a famous judgment known as Somersett’s Case. In it, the Court of King’s Bench held that without a law permitting slavery in England, courts could not uphold a slaveholder’s claim to a slave. Although the decision did not state that slavery was illegal, it set a precedent that altered the course of slavery in England and abroad. Who was Somersett? Discuss


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