School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Manumitting Slaves: Eighteenth-Century Scotland and Ancient Rome

News from the History, Classic & Archaeology School

The 5th 'World Slavery from Antiquity to the Present' public lecture will take place in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology on 30 April 2015.

Event details Thursday 30 April 2015, 6.15pm Teviot Lecture Theatre, doorway 5, Old Medical School, Teviot Place

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the School's McMillan Room

Event description

Hosted by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, this lecture will consider the manumission of slaves in eighteenth-century Scotland, delivered by Professor John W. Cairns from the University of Edinburgh Law School.

Manumitting Slaves: Eighteenth-Century Scotland and Ancient Rome

Manumission has played a complex social role in slave-owning societies. Unlike ancient Rome, eighteenth-century Scotland was not a slave-society; but it was certainly a society in which men, women and children were held as slaves.

This was the product of the energetic activity of Scots in the British Empire: most of the individuals held as slaves had been imported from the colonies. Slave-societies typically regulate manumission as part of a complex set of regulations of slavery and slave-ownership.

But the legal position of slaves in Scotland as ambiguous; legal practices imported from the colonies and often understood - at least by lawyers - through a lens of Roman law created social and perhaps even legal norms. These ambiguities created uncertainties about manumission and how to make it effective, to allow those freed to maintain their freedom and not be sold abroad.

Join us at our 'Slavery and freedom' workshop

Following this public lecture, there is a workshop on manumission in the ancient world, taking place on 1 May.

Full information on the workshop programme, as well as on how to register, can be found on our website.


This lecture is free but ticketed. Please visit our online booking system to register.

Further information

For further information on this workshop, please contact the organiser, Dr Ulrike Roth.

Dr Ulrike Roth

Head of Classics Subject Area and Senior Lecturer; Ancient History

  • School of History, Classics and Archaeology
  • University of Edinburgh

Contact details