Naval Heritage Centenary

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Chasing Freedom: The Royal Navy and the Suppression of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

200 years ago Parliament voted to outlaw the slave trade in Britain.

A Royal Navy squadron was established that would patrol the seas of West Africa for the next 60 years: searching and detaining slave ships, liberating some 150,000 enslaved Africans, playing a pivotal role in the suppression of the international slave trade.

Midshipman Cheesman Henry Binstead of HMS Owen Glendower

Find out about life on the West Africa Squadron through extracts from the original diaries such as those of Cheesman Henry Binstead – an officer on HMS Owen Glendower – as he reports on day to day life patrolling the vast west coast.

Find out more about disease on the West Coast of  Africa Squadron

Witness Binstead’s despair as he boards overcrowded, disease ridden slave ships and watches as his own crew suffer and die from tropical diseases including yellow fever and malaria.

Feel what it was like to spend 6 to 8 weeks on board a slave ship

Experience the traumatic crossing of the Middle Passage, endured by millions of enslaved Africans, in a reconstructed slave deck and handle artefacts used to restrain Africans during their capture and journey including leg irons, handcuffs and a neck collar.

Handle slave shackles like these in the exhibition

Two specially produced films discuss the legacy of the Squadron’s work as well as recreate the powerful abolition debate of the time with key figures from each side, including Admiral Lord Nelson.

‘Chasing Freedom’ is a special exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. It presents for the first time the Royal Navy’s role in combating the trade and its continued work in defending human rights across the world today.

Chasing Freedom exhibition at the Royal Naval Museum

You can also discover more about the subject in our extended information section