Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners

Truly jaw-dropping in its revelations

Made in an exclusive partnership between BBC Studios and University College London and presented by historian David Olusoga, this two-part documentary sheds new light on the abolition of slavery, revealing previously hidden, often disturbing stories about historical attitudes to race in Britain.

“...truly jaw-dropping in its revelations... as important and informative as it was disturbing”

Daily Mail

The detail

Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners is a two-part documentary which reveals the forgotten price of the abolition of slavery in Britain – enacted by parliament in 1834. Over two hour-long episodes the programme brings to light startling new historical evidence which shows that while slave owners received generous compensation from the government during abolition, slaves got nothing.

Presented by historian David Olusoga, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners was made in an exclusive partnership between BBC Studios and University College London. Through forensic examination of over 46,000 entries in the Slavery Compensation Commissions accounts books, by following the resultant paper trail and using archive footage, the documentary reveals both the scale of the slave trade in Britain at the time of abolition and the extraordinary decision taken by the government of the day to compensate slave owners for the loss of their ‘property’ to the equivalent of £17bn in today’s money.

Warmly received by audiences and critics, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners brought BBC Studios’ high production values, editorial integrity and creative storytelling to bear on a period of history that has been instrumental in shaping the nation but is rarely examined on television. As well as winning the Specialist Factual BAFTA in 2016, the show also received the Royal Historical Society Public History Prize Winner for Broadcasting in 2015.