Abolition of slavery occurred as abolition in specific countries, abolition of the trade in slaves and abolition throughout empires. Each of these steps was usually the result of a separate law or action.
3rd century BC: Ashoka abolishes slave trade and encourages people to treat slaves well but does not abolish slavery itself in the Maurya Empire, covering the majority of India, which was under his rule.
221-206 B.C.E: The Qin Dynasty’s measures to eliminate the landowning aristocracy include the abolition of slavery and the establishment of a free peasantry who owed taxes and labor to the state. They also abolished primogeniture and discouraged serfdom. The dynasty was overthrown in 206 B.C.E and many of its laws were overturned.
17: Wang Mang usurped the Chinese throne and instituted a series of sweeping reforms, including the abolition of slavery and radical land reform. After his assassination in 23 C.E., slavery was reinstituted.
Many of these changes were reversed in practice over the succeeding centuries.
960: Doge of Venice Pietro IV Candiano reconvened the popular assembly and had it approve of a law prohibiting the slave trade
1200: Slavery virtually disappears in Japan; it was never widespread and mostly involved captives taken in civil wars.
1214: The Statute of the Town of Korčula (Croatia) abolishes slavery.
1215: Magna Carta signed. Clause 30, commonly known as Habeas Corpus, would form the basis of a law against slavery in English common law.
~1220: The Sachsenspiegel, the most influential German code of law from the Middle Ages condemns slavery as a violation of God's likeness to man.
1256: The Liber Paradisus is promulgated. The Comune di Bologna abolishes slavery and serfdom and releases all the serfs in its territories.
1274: Landslova (Land's Law) in Norway mentions only former slaves, which indicates that slavery was abolished in Norway
1315: Louis X, king of France, publishes a decree proclaiming that "France" signifies freedom and that any slave setting foot on the French ground should be freed
1335: Sweden (including Finland at the time) makes slavery illegal, though this is not enacted. A true abolition of slavery does not occur until 1813.
1368: China's Hongwu Emperor establishes the Ming dynasty and would abolish all forms of slavery. However, slavery continued in the Ming dynasty. Later Ming rulers, as a way of limiting slavery in the absence of a prohibition, passed a decree that limited the number of slaves that could be held per household and extracted a severe tax from slave owners.
1435: Papal Encyclical – Sicut Dudum – of Pope Eugene IV banning enslavement on pain of excommunication.
1537: Pope Paul III forbids slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as of any other new population that would be discovered, indicating their right to freedom and property. However, only Catholic countries apply it, and state that they cannot possibly enforce what happens in the distant colonies (Sublimus Dei).
1723–1730: China's Yongzheng emancipation sought to free all slaves to strengthen the autocratic ruler through a kind of social leveling that created an undifferentiated class of free subjects under the throne. Although these new regulations freed the vast majority of slaves, wealthy families continued to use slave labor into the twentieth century.
1761, 12 February: Portugal abolishes slavery in mainland Portugal and in Portuguese possessions in India through a decree by the Marquis of Pombal.
1772: Somersett's case held that no slave could be forcibly removed from Britain. This case was generally taken at the time to have decided that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law in England and Wales, and emancipated the remaining ten to fourteen thousand slaves or possible slaves in England and Wales, who were mostly domestic servants.
1774 Laws of the Marquis of Pombal, prime minister of King José I. prohibiting the transport of black slaves to Portugal and the liberation of the children of slaves born in Portugal
1780: Pennsylvania passes An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, freeing future children of slaves. Those born prior to the Act remain enslaved for life. The Act becomes a model for other Northern states. Last slaves freed 1847.
1806: U.S. President Thomas Jefferson in a message to Congress calls for criminalizing the international slave trade, asking Congress to "withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights … which the morality, the reputation, and the best of our country have long been eager to proscribe."
1807: The British begin patrols of African coast to arrest slaving vessels. The West Africa Squadron (Royal Navy) is established to suppress slave trading; by 1865, nearly 150,000 people freed by anti-slavery operations
1807: In the U.S. Northwest Territory (present-day Michigan), Territorial Justice Augustus Woodward denies the return of two slaves owned by a man in Windsor, Upper Canada (present day Ontario). Woodward declares that any man “coming into this Territory is by law of the land a freeman.”
1811: The First National Congress of Chile approves a proposal drafted by Manuel de Salas that declares the Freedom of wombs, which sets free the sons of slaves born on Chilean territory, no matter the conditions of the parents; it prohibited the slave trade and recognized as freedmen those who, passing in transit through Chilean territory, stayed there for six months.
1813: In Argentina, the Law of Wombs was passed on 2 February, by the Assembly of Year XIII. The law stated that those born after 31 January 1813 would be granted freedom when contracting matrimony, or on their 16th birthday for women and 20th for men, and upon their manumission would be given land and tools to work it. In 1853, slavery was completely abolished.
1814: Uruguay, before its independence, declares all those born of slaves in their territories are free from that day forward.
1830: Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante orders the abolition of slavery to be implemented also in Mexican Texas. To circumvent the law, many Anglo colonists convert their slaves into "indentured servants for life".
1830: The first Constitution of Uruguay declares the abolition of slavery.
1834: The British Slavery Abolition Act comes into force, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire. Legally frees 700,000 in West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, 40,000 in South Africa. The exceptions, territories controlled by the East India Company and Ceylon, were liberated in 1843 when they became part of the British Empire.
1835: Serbia abolishes slavery Although formally outlawed in 1835, slavery never existed in Serbia. During its occupation by the Ottoman Empire, however, male Serbian children were regularly taken to be trained as janissaries.
1835: Treaty between Britain and France to abolish slave trade
1835: Treaty between Britain and Denmark to abolish slave trade
1836: Portugal abolishes transatlantic slave trade
1928: Domestic slavery practised by local African elites abolished in Sierra Leone. Though established as a place for freed slaves, a study found practices of domestic slavery still widespread in rural areas in the 1970s.
^ abcHobhouse, Henry. Seeds of Change: Six Plants That Transformed Mankind, 2005. Page 111.
^Heward, Edmund (1979). Lord Mansfield: A Biography of William Murray 1st Earl of Mansfield 1705–1793 Lord Chief Justice for 32 years. p.141. Chichester: Barry Rose (publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-85992-163-8
^ abcdefghijklmRobert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman. Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, 1995. Pages 33–34.
^A Leon Higginbotham, Jr., In the Matter of Color: Race & the American Legal Process, Oxford University Press, 1978. p.310.