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In 1787 the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor organised the migration of hundreds of Black Londoners to set up a new colony in Sierra Leone. The colony was intended to provide a home for formerly enslaved people and set an example that would support arguments for the abolition of the slave trade. Its system of government was designed by Granville Sharp following the principles of hundreds and tithings, which he described as ‘ordained by the virtuous and patriotic King Alfred’.


Looking back to ‘Rule Britannia’s famous promise that ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’ and forwards to the reception of Beowulf in the aftermath of abolition, this paper uses Sharp’s alarming proposal to frame a broader interrogation of the medievalisms that gave expression to English ideas about slavery.


Dr Josh Davies is senior lecturer in medieval literature at King’s College London



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